Will the Raptors as we know them be next?
The Cavaliers eliminated Toronto for third straight season with a 128-93 shellacking in Game 4 of their second-round sweep Monday.
LeBron advances to his eighth straight Eastern Conference finals and the 10th of his career. He and the Cavs will face the winner of the Celtics-76ers series, which Boston leads 3-1.
Where the Raptors go from here is anyone’s guess.
Cleveland swept the Raptors last year and beat them in the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history the year prior. But this season appeared as if it could be different.
Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games and secured the No. 1 seed in the East. The Raptors were better than the Cavs during the regular season in every major facet – offense, defense, starters, bench.
The Cavaliers played awful defense, bickered in the locker room and shuffled the roster at the trade deadline. They needed seven games just to beat the Pacers, the worst first-round showing ever for a LeBron team . By the end of the series, he said he felt “burnt.”
Then, he roasted the Raptors.
LeBron (29 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds) didn’t even appear to expend much energy tonight. He can dominate while coasting – especially when his teammates step up like they did.
Toronto, on the other hand, looked desperate. C.J. Miles and Serge Ibaka started over Fred VanVleet and Jonas Valanciunas to spread the floor, but Cleveland scorched the compromised defense. Lucas Nogueira played his first meaningful minutes in the second quarter, and the Raptors immediately surrendered a 10-0 run with the sub-rotation player in. DeRozan, after getting benched for the fourth quarter of Game 3, got ejected for a flagrant foul in the third quarter:
DeRozan finished with 13 points on 11 shots in 33 minutes. Lowry (five points on 2-of-7 shooting) impacted the game even less as a scorer.
Toronto, especially its stars, aren’t good enough against LeBron. If we didn’t know that already, we sure do now.
What will the Raptors do about it? They’ll have a long offseason to figure it out.