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Which playoff outcomes do you want to see for the Raptors?

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With the first round all but wrapped up, let’s look ahead to today’s Game 7, the second round, and beyond. What’s best for the Raptors?

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you ask any member of the Raptors which team they’d like to face in the next round of the NBA playoffs, they will wisely tell you it doesn’t matter. In fact, DeMar DeRozan has already said as much — he doesn’t really care. Nor should he. For Toronto, the number one seed, any team put in front of them should be one they defeat — yes, even if it features LeBron James, or the young upstarts in Philly.

That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t think about it and harbour our own preferences. So let’s talk about it. Here are the four outcomes on the horizon for the Raptors on their way to a possible appearance in the Finals. Let’s figure out which one is the best for our future well-being.

Cavaliers Wins Game 7, Sixers Beat Celtics

If pressed, I’d say this feels like the most likely chain of events. The Cavaliers, featuring, uh, LeBron freakin’ James, are the favourites going into a Game 7 in Cleveland. The Pacers, god love them, are going to give it everything they’ve got — which, if the series continues as it has, is quite a lot — but it will prove to not be enough. LeBron stays LeBron, and that’s all there is to it.

That means the Raptors get their third matchup in a row with the Cavaliers. How are we feeling about it this time? Given the struggles the fifth-seeded Pacers gave them, Toronto has to feel, hmmm, better? Yes, without getting too ahead of myself I’ll say I feel better about their chances.

Now let’s get completely ahead of ourselves and assume the Raptors beat the Cavs, and take on the Sixers in the Conference Finals. Here’s a match-up that feels a bit scary at the moment. Philadelphia is beatable, and they are leaning heavily on a rookie, and a bunch of playoff neophytes, but the momentum going for them is quite real. (And they have Raptor killer Ersan Ilyasova — look out!)

Comfort Level (out of 10): 5

I actually like the idea of the Raptors getting the chance to take on the Cavaliers and put them to bed. But I’m wildly terrified of the Sixers right now. Please someone talk me out of this.

Cavaliers Wins Game 7, Celtics Beat Sixers

The setup here is the same. The Cavaliers crush the nascent Pacers rebellion, and stumble into the second round. Fortunately, the Raptors are even better suited to taking on LeBron and his struggling cast of characters than the Pacers.

There are a lot of great storylines to this outcome: Kyle Lowry gets to get revenge on washed George Hill, and his old friendly nemesis Jose Calderon; OG Anunoby gets to really go to work on LeBron; Pascal Siakam gets to run Kevin Love right off the court; DeMar DeRozan gets to put an end to this JR Smith foolishness. It’s good times!

Then though we’d have to watch the epitome of a struggle series between the Celtics and Raptors. Unlike a match-up with the rollicking Sixers, a 7-game series with Boston would definitely fall into some kind of grind-it-out blackhole. On the plus side, this Celtics team — walking wounded for sure — just barely beat aimless Bucks squad. Toronto’s skill and organization should be enough to send Boston to an early vacation.

Comfort Level (out of 10): 7

The Celtics are well-coached and all that (even as we’ve already completely looked over LeBron in this scenario), but they’re seriously lacking right now. It’d be a tough series, but one the Raptors can work with — especially since they’d have the two best players in the series. Sorry, not sorry!

Pacers Wins Game 7, Sixers Beat Celtics

Ooooh, now we’re getting somewhere and really grappling with an unknown and uncertain future. We haven’t had an Eastern Conference playoffs without LeBron James in the second round since — holy shit — 2006. Good lord.

Anyway, a Pacers and Raptors series would actually be pretty fun. The narrative would all be brand new, we wouldn’t have to worry about LeBron’s on- and off-court gravity, and, most importantly, I believe Toronto would be favoured. Yes, Victor Oladipo is having himself a hell of a year, and a hell of a post-season, but the Raptors have the manpower to deal with his brand of basketball (hello OG and Siakam!). And on top of that, the mindstate of both teams would be vastly different in two key ways: for the Pacers, they’d be holding onto a bit of a “just happy to be here” vibe (even though they’d deny that), and for Toronto they’d be locked into a “this is our year” vibe (even if it kind of wasn’t). This whole situation has got to make you feel pretty good — even if, yes, that terrifying Sixers team looms in the Conference Finals.

Comfort Level (out of 10): 8

Pacers Win Game 7, Celtics Beat Sixers

Now we’re really talking! The Raptors get the inexperienced Pacers team in round two, then take on the try-hard Celtics in the Conference Finals. I’m not saying this would be a pair of easy series for the Raptors, but it definitely feels distinctly easier than a Cavs-Sixers march to the Finals.

Am I wrong about this?

Comfort Level (out of 10): 9

Poll

Which playoff outcomes do you want to see for the Raptors?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Cavaliers Wins Game 7, Sixers Beat Celtics
    (148 votes)
  • 26%
    Cavaliers Wins Game 7, Celtics Beat Sixers
    (172 votes)
  • 8%
    Pacers Wins Game 7, Sixers Beat Celtics
    (55 votes)
  • 42%
    Pacers Wins Game 7, Celtics Beat Sixers
    (281 votes)
656 votes total Vote Now

Bonus Finals Predictions

We’ve come this far, so let’s just go the distance: who do the Raptors want in the Finals? Is it absurd to even predict this now? Sure! But will we let that stop us? Hell no!

Finals Opponent: Warriors

Did you watch Golden State completely annihilate the Pelicans in Game 1 of their second round series last Saturday night? Even without Steph Curry, only the most dangerous offensive player of the modern basketball era, this Warriors team just goes after it. You can’t slow it down against them, you can’t try to run with them, you can’t out-shoot them, you can’t hope to contain them. You just try to survive.

The Pelicans have Anthony Davis, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and he was totally crushed after Game 1. (The Raptors do not have a player like Davis.) Needless to say, despite the Raptors’ advanced depth and even noting the close contests they always seem to have against the Warriors, this feels like an impossible challenge.

Comfort Level (out of 10): 3

Finals Opponent: Rockets

Of the pair of likely Finals opponents, this Rockets squad feels beatable, particularly for Toronto. We know that regular season outcomes don’t mean that much, especially in the pressure cooker of the post-season and the Finals, but the Raps’ 2-0 record against Houston this year speaks to Toronto’s ability to snuff out the Rockets’ game plan.

We also have to factor in the Rockets’ (and Chris Paul’s) underrated ability to choke in big moments. James Harden is just waiting to let somebody down here, I can feel it. Are the Raptors one of the few teams that can match them in the anxiety-inducement department? Yes, possibly. But they also have the depth and talent to run with this relatively top-heavy Rockets squad. Ultimately, it will come down to who best relaxes in the biggest of moments.

Comfort Level (out of 10): 5

Finals Opponent: Jazz

This Jazz team is something of a surprise, and they do have a wild terror in rookie Donovan Mitchell. (But I don’t see them getting by the Rockets.) If I’m Toronto, I worry about Rudy Gobert, obviously, and the clutch play of a guy like Joe Ingles. But I’m not entirely convinced they have the firepower to fend off the full might of the Raptors machine.

Sure, maybe Mitchell wins them a game (or two), but you can only outlast the Raptors for so long (as the Wizards recently discovered).

Comfort Level (out of 10): 7

Finals Opponent: Pelicans

Lowry vs. Playoff Rajon Rondo is, at the very least, a wash. OG Anunoby and Delon Wright can matchup with Jrue Holiday. There is no one on the Pelicans that can really slow DeMar DeRozan. And yes, while the Brow would be the most talented player in the series, I have to believe that New Orleans would just be out of gas, assuming they managed to survive the entire ordeal of the Western Conference Playoffs. My unbiased opinion here suggests a relatively easy time for Toronto — sadly, this just happens to be the most unlikely outcome for the West.

Comfort Level (out of 10): 8

Poll

Who do you want the Raptors to see in the Finals?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Warriors
    (62 votes)
  • 42%
    Rockets
    (160 votes)
  • 20%
    Jazz
    (79 votes)
  • 20%
    Pelicans
    (76 votes)
377 votes total Vote Now