It's fun to believe in the underdog narrative coming true in sports. You'd have to be a robot not to love it; underdog success stories make for a rousing experience. Case in point: the Toronto Raptors in these Eastern Conference Finals are, by every conceivable metric, quite the squad of underdogs. And the fans who believe in them are, in a word, turnt. The Raptors are now in the third round for the first time in franchise history and face their greatest challenge yet: play a bunch of games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and try not to get embarrassed.
The result after Game 1? A final score of 115-84 for the Cavaliers. A 1-0 series deficit for the Raptors. And a dead ass underdog.
After a surprisingly sharp 7-0 start, and a 5-for-5 opening by DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors collapsed in a heap. To the team's credit, they got the scouting report on these Cavaliers: they like to shoot 3-pointers. So, for most of the first quarter, the Raptors did what they could to chase Cleveland and its relentless band of shooters off the three point line. Unfortunately, this opened up the rim. By the time LeBron James missed his first shot, the Raptors had been put to sleep. James finished the game with 24 points (on 11-for-13 shooting), six rebounds and four assists. And honestly, he didn't looked particularly stressed -- even when Bismack Biyombo took a swing at him.
For the Raptors, it was the night of many not-so-happy returns. The bad version of Kyle Lowry showed up to shoot 4-for-14 and miss all seven of his threes for a total of eight points. Patrick Patterson and DeMarre Carroll mostly took turns looking like re-animated husks out there -- with Carroll in particular getting just annihilated by James multiple times. Cory Joseph was largely a ghost again. DeRozan had an above average efficiency night (for him), shooting 9-for-17 from the field for 18 points, which feels like a cruel bit of irony. And the next two leading scorers for the Raps were Biyombo with 12 and -- let me see here -- James Johnson, the ultimate comeback kid, with ten.
At one point in the second quarter, the Raptors got the lead down to 12 and you could maybe see the formation of a little run happening. It was quickly snuffed out by the Cavaliers, who by this point were shooting around 66 percent from three (while the Raptors had missed 14 of their 16 attempts from deep). Then to start the second half, the Raptors went on another nifty little 6-0 run to get the lead to 14. Maybe a glimmer of hope emerged from deep in the dark Cleveland night in that moment. It too was obliterated by the solar eclipse that is LeBron and his horseman. There was only death.
The fourth quarter was a novelty act of rookies and star players from the mid-00's. The score was an impossible math problem that hardly mattered. Leo Rautins insisted on the broadcast that the Raptors were just feeling this series out, getting their sea legs against the Cavaliers, implying they could somehow ride this undead pirate dreadnaught into something resembling a victory in Game 2. It was a nice sentiment for this time of mourning.
The underdog narrative lives a new day on Thursday.