The mystery of why Cleveland was playing their starters in a meaningless game against Toronto after they had secured first place overall, and then sat King James while hoisting numerous uncalled-for threes against Chicago in the next game seems all the more clear.
“We knew this team would push us,” James said, as reported by ESPN . “That’s not taking anything away from Toronto, but with Bosh being out for the rest of the season and all those injuries, it just didn’t seem like they even wanted to make the playoffs at the end of the season. So it probably would’ve ended up in that same way if we had played Toronto like it was last year.”
What hurts Raptors fans all the more was that Bosh was knocked out for the season during that game in Cleveland. Later, it was the Cavaliers who ensured a Toronto loss by putting all their starters back into that meaningless game when the Raptors closed the gap during the fourth quarter.
It wouldn’t have mattered if the Cavaliers had beaten the Bulls two nights later as a Bulls loss would have effectively put them out of the race. But Cleveland gave the Bulls every opportunity to win that game, and even at that, the Bulls barely managed to pull it off.
The Cavaliers must have been very pleased with that turn of events.
Of course, what James wasn’t saying was that the Chris Boshless Raptors had taken the Cavaliers to overtime in Toronto a month earlier, and the Raptors beat the Cavaliers in their home opener.
Despite James' bravado, the Raptors were a bad match up for Shaq in the first round. A team that plays pick-and-roll offense and stretches big men out to the three-point line was not what the Cavaliers wanted to face in round one.
And in four games against Toronto this season, King James had shot more than 5 percent below his season average and scored three fewer points per game.
No one could make a convincing argument that Toronto would have fared any better against Cleveland in the end.
But James' argument that Chicago was going to give them a better series isn’t supported by the facts.
Of course, securing first place overall with over a week to go in the schedule does give a team the opportunity to play with their opponents' playoff futures.
And Toronto was still in control of their playoff destiny after the game in Cleveland. The loss to the Cavaliers merely kept the door open for the Bulls.
But, Raptors fans should still be steaming in the big smoke.