Better Luck Next Year


Cavs Rout Raptors 128-93, Eliminate Toronto for 3rd Consecutive Season

The Toronto Raptors underwent a tremendous overhaul this season, changing much of their roster, their playing style and their approach to the game. The end result however, was familiar: another playoff elimination at the hands of Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The game was close for much of the first half, with the Raptors even spending some time in front. However, Cleveland soon took over, going on a 12-0 run over the final 2:12 of the second quarter. Toronto never seriously challenged after that, and the Cavs were well on their way to a sweep.

“It was a great series for us,” James said. “We had a lot of challenges to start the series, knowing the domination (Toronto) had in the regular season. We had a great game plan and we just tried to execute it.”

Once again, Lebron proved his clear superiority to Toronto’s stars. He finished with 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, outperforming both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who combined for 18 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds.

In contrast to Cleveland’s first-round series against Indiana, James received solid help from his supporting cast. Kevin Love continued his resurgence, scoring 23 points on 13 shots. All five of Cleveland’s starters finished in double figures.

Lebron praised his teammates after. “From Game 1, they were wonderful… I was horrible in Game 1 and they picked it up for me. So I tried to follow their lead going into Game 2 and all the way through Game 4.”

Cleveland will now get to rest. They await the winner of the Boston-Philadelphia series, which Boston currently leads 3-1.

After a franchise-record regular season, only to be followed by another playoff disappointment, where does Toronto go next? With the exception of emerging guard Fred VanVleet, their entire rotation is locked up for next season. The future might hinge on James’ free agency situation. Lebron’s departure for the West would give Toronto a welcome respite from their perennial tormentor, and effectively open up the Eastern Conference, providing the opportunity for a new dominant team to rise up. Will the Raptors stay the course, hoping to fill the contender void? Or will they blow it all up? And has head coach Dwane Casey finally worn out his welcome? Either way, Toronto is about to enter a crucial offseason.

Casey has at least one supporter among the NBA head coaching ranks. Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue opposed firing the Raptors coach, claiming that such a move would be “absurd,” given Toronto’s regular-season success.

Casey commended his players, while recognizing the gulf in talent between the two teams, or rather between Toronto and one specific player. “We had a heck of a season,” Casey said. “But there’s a different level and you saw it tonight. Everybody called Cleveland out. But as long as they have him (James) they have a chance.”


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