Cavaliers sweep Raptors with clinical precision
Too many injuries, too much James, too much for Dinos
The Toronto Raptors approached the end with resignation. Too many injuries. Too much LeBron James.
The Raptors still had a game to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre Sunday, and they talked about pride — and about having a chance, which was technically true. But they knew.
“Everybody was saying, ‘Are they vulnerable?’” the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry said Saturday, referring to the Cavaliers. “They’re the defending champs for a reason. They have a goal. They have a mission, and that’s what they’re on. Good for them. We have the same goals. It just hasn’t worked out for us right now.”
The Cavaliers, who have been clinical in their pursuit of back-toback NBA championships, have yet to lose a game through two rounds of the playoffs. Remember the collective hand-wringing over their haphazard play late in the regular season? The doubts about their defence? It all seems so laughable now.
Sunday, the Cavs completed a fourgame sweep of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 109-102 win that earned them that most coveted playoff commodity: several days of rest.
By dismantling their first two opponents, the Cavaliers are conditioning themselves to be even more fearsome as the post-season marches on. They treated the Raptors and the Indiana Pacers, whom they defeated in the first round, like piñatas. Back at their training compound in suburban Cleveland, the restorative powers of the massage table and the cold tub await them.
Rest and recovery are James’ two best friends at this stage. On Sunday, he cluttered the box score of his 207th career playoff game with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. He is 32. Neither the Pacers nor the Raptors were capable of stopping him, or even slowing him. Up next for the Cavaliers: the Celtics or the Wizards, who are still slugging it out in the other conference semifinals.
“He seems a lot faster and quicker this year from last year,” Demar DeRozan said. “It’s incredible for someone with that amount of mileage to be able to come back seeming faster and quicker.”
James has long been known as one of the game’s most durable players. Now, in the playoffs, he has made himself as dangerous as ever by playing as few games as possible. Just the way he wants it.
Several teams out west can at least commiserate with the Raptors. As the NBA edges toward its conference finals, the playoffs are again shaping up as a glorified stage for the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, who have combined for 15 wins (and counting) without a loss. Everybody else has been background noise.
Nobody would be surprised to see the Cavs and the Warriors back in the finals for the third straight year. Both are doing what they can to eliminate wear and tear through the opening rounds.
LeBron James (23), says DeMar DeRozan, seems a lot faster and quicker than last year. “It’s incredible,” says the Raptor, whose season ended Sunday.