Beating the LeBron James-led Cavaliers is a state of mind. It’s been that way since 2006, his first year in the playoffs. James has made it at least into the second round every year from that season onward. That’s 13 straight post-seasons, including this year. In that time, he’s been knocked out just three times in the Conference Semifinals — in ‘06, his first postseason, ‘08, and ‘10.
There are reasons for all three of those losses, plus others in the Conference Finals, and, most dramatically, the NBA Finals, but the lesson remains the same across the entire era: LeBron James can lose, it can happen — it has happened.
The Raptors can lose too. We know that already, have been conditioned, in fact, to expect as such, after years of futility, frustration, and failure. The Raptors spent years trying to get in the playoffs, then more years trying to be successful in the playoffs, and now the last three years — counting this one — to beat LeBron. They have to believe it’s possible because, well, what other option is there?
That belief can be a wild force, prone to bursts of energy, or fantastic letdowns, or wherever this particular sentiment comes from:
How you know this is a real rivalry: when Raptors fans get into a shouting match with Vitaly Potapenko (Cavs assistant coach) on the street.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 1, 2018
"Cavs are going down."
"No, you're going down."
Getting into a shouting match with Vitaly Potapenko feels really unwise — one wouldn’t want it to escalate any further. Some would say believing the Raptors can beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the playoffs is an equally absurd notion. For both, there’s a risk of pain, embarrassment, and defeat.
But maybe... maybe there is victory at the end.
Here’s the full Game 1 preview from Zakaria Abdulle, complete with a Michael Jordan-Detroit Pistons comp that I personally find delightful.
Now, let’s watch.
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Cleveland [UPDATED] – George Hill, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, LeBron James, Kevin Love
Toronto – None
Cleveland – None
It's the Game 1 Raptors-Cavaliers Live preview with Sean and Daniel. Let's get ready!Posted by Raptors HQ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018