Well, that settles that.
They’ll still have to play games 3 and 4 of the series, of course. But if last night’s Raptors-Cavaliers game, in Toronto, didn’t put to permanent rest any questions you might have about the Raptors, not just these Raptors but the holistic Raptors, what it means to be a Raptor, the grim heritage of all Raptors, please walk outside and hand your wallet to the first person you see. Honestly, it’s more than you should be trusted with. If U.S. Customs and Border Protection even lets these counterfeit sacks of crap across the border for Game 3, it ought to prompt a congressional inquiry.
Down 1-0 in the series, at home, in desperate, season-defining need of a win before the action shifts to Cleveland, the Raptors spent the last, oh, 30 minutes of last night’s action gradually shrinking away to nothing and blinking entirely out of existence. Or they might as well have. They lost by 18. It only felt like a trillion.
Perched on a lead after wiping away Toronto’s nine-point second-quarter advantage, LeBron James spent the decisive stretch of the second half lofting a series of hilariously irresponsible, impossible-seeming fall-away jump shots up into the gloomy heights of the ever-more-silent arena. If he made less than all of them, he made more than enough to snatch the soul right out of each and every poor Raptor. The message seemed unmistakable: Not just that he could keep the top-seeded Raptors at bay, in their own building, and effectively extinguish the brightest championship hopes in the history of their franchise with a diet of nothing but bonkers H-O-R-S-E–ass shots, but that he did not even take the Raptors seriously enough to bother searching for good looks. It’s as sadistic a performance as I’ve ever seen from LeBron.
Oh, you’re desperately trying to save your season on this defensive possession? That’s nice. I’m gonna potato-cannon this ball up into the rafters. I’m gonna take nine straight heat-checks. I dunno, it just seems cool. That they kept splashing through the net on their way back down from orbit felt cartoonishly cruel, like Bugs Bunny shit. It also felt beside the point, which was LeBron demonstrating, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the proper contempt with which all the rest of us forgot to regard the Toronto Raptors. I don’t know what anybody could do about that. I only know the Raptors will never, ever do it.
They will not scale this mountain. They will not get past LeBron James. There’s not much shame in that: It’s been eight years since an Eastern Conference team eliminated LeBron, after all. And anyway, along the route to becoming the 20th [CORRECTION: 23rd!] straight East team to fail at this task (as they will next week, as sure as sunlight), the Raptors won 59 regular season games and a playoff series and played a lot of good, entertaining basketball. They fed their fans extravagantly this season, and that’s great. It’s something to admire and to be proud of. And they will never get past LeBron James.
The shame, last night and this morning, is for everybody who suckered him- or herself into believing the Raptors could, or, embarrassment of embarrassments, predicted they would. I have to include myself on the margin of that group: I never predicted the Raptors would win this series, thank God, but I feared they might. Holy shit, man, what the fuck was I thinking?