Source: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
The Raptors and The Cavaliers will clash for the third straight time in the NBA playoffs. The Raptors have bowed down to LeBron and the Cavs the previous two years. However this year there’s a different narrative. The Raptors will have home court advantage and are the favourites heading into this series. In previous years Cleveland would dominate their opening series while the Raptors would go to a game 7 and limp away with a win. The Raptors are in good position against LeBron and the Cavs. They could be the one to end LeBron’s 7 year NBA Final streak.
The Raptors all season have gotten no respect from fans and critics down south. For so many years the Raptors gave been a little blimp on the NBA radar. They’ve been made fun of being compared to Barney on a regular (You know that big headed, smiling dinosaur that sings to kids and says hi a thousand times on the damn show. Talk about straight disrespect.). To be fair the Raptors haven’t looked this good ever. The highest the team has ever finished was third place in the East before this season. Even during the height of the Carter years the team didn’t ever get to 50 wins. The Raptors offence had franchise highs scoring over 111 points per game, and owns the third best offence in the league. With Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry leading the Raptors with one of the most deadliest backcourts in the league, the big key to their success has been the bench. Usually Toronto has had one or two good players coming off the bench. Like a Lou Williams or a Pat Patterson, but not this year. The whole bench has produced immensely and has given the Raptors a huge edge.The “bench mob” has been in the top 5 in every statistical category and scored an average of 42 points a game (fourth best in the league.). They have an NBA best plus 8.3 in net rating point differential. They’ve made it known that they are a threat to be not to be reckoned with.
The Raptors haven’t had great luck when it comes to facing LBJ. LeBron hasn’t just had the upper hand against the Raptors, he’s routinely blown them out of the water. His record against Toronto during regular season and playoffs is 49-12. He’s averaged 27 points but averages about 30 in the playoffs. The thing that’s even more crazy is that playing in Toronto doesn’t faze him at all. He’s 21-8 at the ACC and averages close to 32 points a game. Just when the Raptors try and close in on the Cavs, LeBron goes hulk mode and smashes them. Game 6 two years ago LeBron buried the Raptors with a double double consisting of 33 points and 11 rebounds. So it’s not about stopping LeBron, but more so containing him.
Despite LeBron’s haunting stats against Canada’s basketball team, there is optimism. LeBron never faced elimination in the first round ever and had to scrape and claw just to get past Victor Olidipo and the Indiana Pacer. Even saying during his post game interview saying that he was burnt out and wanted to go home is a good sign if you’re a Raptors fan. LeBron just by himself may not be able to beat the Raptors. Kevin Love only scored 80 points in the Pacers series and that was second on the Cavs team. If that trend continues for the Cavaliers, there’s a good chance Toronto can put the King away. With that being said Toronto has looked a little bit vulnerable giving up the 2-0 series lead to Washington in the first round. But with Fred Van Fleet back and DeRozan looking like his regular season self they took control of the series and finished the Wizards. If this Toronto team can dominate the home court and win road games when necessary, then Cleveland could be hitting the golf course sooner than later. With the bench being healthy, a starting lineup that consists two all-stars, and a rookie in OG Anunoby that has played a crucial role in the starting lineup, a deep playoff run could be in store for the Dinos.
The world is watching you Toronto, time to prove the nah sayers wrong. Maybe ESPN will talk about the Raptors and give them the credit they deserve. But that’s wishful thinking right!?!