Can LeBron rise to another legendary level or will the Raptors defeat their playoff demons? Those are the two questions everyone wants answered as the Toronto Raptors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi-final matchup.
LeBron James entered the postseason as a historically unstoppable force in the Eastern Conference. Whether he’s playing in a Heat or Cavs jersey James’ team has come out of the East and competed for an NBA title 7 seasons in a row. The problem with his legacy can be described in 1 word … rings! Being in 7 straight finals is an amazing feat but only coming away with 3 championships and currently 17-28 with the Larry O’Brien trophy on the line lessens his legacy when compared to the legends of the sport. Jordan would scoff at those numbers and Bill Russell might feel bad enough to lend James’ one of his 11 rings. That could all change this year.
Lebron is leading the weakest squad he’s ever been associated with since the 06-07 season where he famously scored Cleveland’s final 25 points in a double overtime playoff victory
against the Detroit Pistons. With no Dwyane Wade, no Kyrie Irving and no semblance of any ‘Big 3’ level of talent a Cavalier championship this year would be an accomplishment for the ages.
Standing in his way is the East’s top squad, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have improved this year by every possible measurement but just like Lebron and his quest for championships, if Toronto can’t finally defeat LeBron in the postseason the season accomplishments wash away in disappointment. The Raptors are reveling in the best stretch in franchise history but for all their regular season successes LeBron has consistently halted the parties in Jurassic Park. Last year’s deflating playoff sweep to Cleveland forced head coach Dwane Casey to change the team’s playing style and lean on a rebuilt bench. All the hard work has paid off, until now.
The Raptors are built to rely as little as possible on their all-stars Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan and you don’t need to look further than their closeout game against the Washington Wizards for proof. In a tight game 6 tilt the Raps top players played less and 32 minutes a piece to close out the series.
If one thing is for sure this is a matchup pitting a one man show versus the quintessential team effort.