There’s not a whole lot left to say. The Toronto Raptors’ season ended the one way it wasn’t supposed to end, the one way it couldn’t end. After a year of important change, the Raptors found themselves back in the same spot and did no better. Sure, they played two very tight games against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A few bounces or some better play and this series could be heading back to Toronto right now, maybe even at 2-2. But it’s not, and with their last chance to avoid a repeat sweep, the Raptors leaned in and took what could be a final blow from the Cavaliers to the chin. They were blown out. They’re back to the same point, even if a lot of the nuance was different.
Here’s a quick sampling of the responses to the loss after the game.
Fred VanVleet: “We’re all disappointed. That’s not the way you want to go out. You don’t want to get your butts kicked the way we did tonight.”
DeMar DeRozan: “Last three years have been rough for us, competing against this team.Maybe they’ve just got our number. Things just don’t go right for us. Whatever it is. It could be a lot of things. All I know is, last three years they have been the reason why we haven’t advanced. So whatever it is, I couldn’t sit up here and tell you one specific thing.”
Dwane Casey: “I thought our guys would come in and compete harder. I told them they would come out and try and throw a haymaker and how we respond would be important. For whatever reason, we didn’t. That was disappointing. We can’t let this series define us…There are no moral victories in the NBA. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. We got close but it doesn’t count for anything and they came out tonight and played the way a championship team plays and we didn’t after the first quarter.”
Jonas Valanciunas: “We were trying to do too much at a time. It’s not like we didn’t want to. We wanted to. But, probably, frustration, trying to do too much. Trying to win a game got us in the position where we just lost our head…It sucks, you know. That feeling. I don’t know what to say. It just sucks losing 4-0 again, last year, this year, it doesn’t matter when. It just sucks.”
We’ll have plenty of offseason set up/postseason debriefing in the coming days and weeks. There’s a recap for the morning, too, but I can’t imagine many of you want to focus on Game 4 too long.
- Serge Ibaka appeared to get injured in the third quarter and never returned, but no update was ever provided.
- The Raptors tried a new starting lineup once again here, one that had spent just 13 minutes together across the regular season and first nine playoff games. It wasn’t a particularly strong lineup on paper, but their -4 mark in 14 minutes was hardly terrible in relative terms. They probably should have had a quicker hook at the top of the third.
- The starters with Lucas Nogueira in place of Serge Ibaka were an unmitigated disaster, quickly getting a -10 hung on them in two minutes. I love Nogueira, but this was an odd spot to use him in given his usage in the series and the enormity of the situation. The idea was that his passing can help bust Cleveland’s traps – which they executed much better in this game than at any other point in the series – and for all Nogueira’s inconsistencies, his passing is normally reliable. Here, he made a pair of bad ones and offered little else. A disastrous stretch.
- Toronto ended up trying 15 different lineups looking for a spark or passing it over to garbage time, and not a single one was better than +2. Nothing worked for any sustained stretch at all.
- The Raptors used 48 different lineups in the series. Only four of the 13 to play five minutes or more were positives, including the original starters.
- Want some context for how important James is to dominating the Raptors? (Not that you should.) The Cavaliers have won 10 consecutive playoff games against the Raptors, and he is a +178. The Cavaliers are just +3 in non-James minutes in those games. (This comes per Tom Haberstroh.)
- The Cavaliers starters were +19 in 25 minutes. They shot 28-of-38 and 8-of-12 on threes. Their offensive rating was 148.1. Coolcoolcool.
- I mean, do you care about the rest for Cleveland? Their garbage-time lineup was -5 and otherwise everything was fine. Even Jordan Clarkson was +11. Tristan Thompson had a -2 somehow, likely because Jonas Valanciunas was the best Raptor in this one and their minutes lined up a lot. That Valanciunas only got 16 minutes was cutting off the nose to spite the face.
Raptors final postseason on/off numbers(pts/100 possessions):
— Lernernerner (@duckshoe) May 8, 2018
- Kyle Lowry was at the podium with his hat pulled very low over his eyes. DeMar DeRozan was visibly emotional. Dwane Casey had a somewhat strange air of detachment. They’re really wearing this. It’s going to be an interesting offseason.
- Did Dwane Casey think a sweep was possible? “No. In my heart I didn’t think so. I had all the confidence in the world that we would come here and fight and compete and we did. I thought we did for two games and really put ourselves in a position to win.”
- DeMar DeRozan is already ready to get back to work: “At some point, I’mma sit down and re-evaluate myself from top to bottom, figure out, understand, study, and come back a lot better.”
- And DeRozan on the missed opportunities: “It’s life, man. If you dwell on what could have happened, what should have happened in life, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Fact of the matter is, we out, we done. Gotta get back to reality come tomorrow. Work our butt off this summer and get ready for the next stage.”
- LeBron James admitted the Cavaliers “winged it” for Game 1 with no prep time. Awesome. He also said “I’m not that good” which is the greatest lie ever told. (He was speaking about remembering something from the past, but hearing James admit that about anything but his hairline is offensive.)
- Positive LeBronning: He said OG Anunoby has a “bright future” and “his future is now, actually.” James also called the 2017 draft class “probably the best since 2003.” High praise.
- Pretty accurate quote here from Fred VanVleet: “We played hard enough. In some of the games, we played well enough. I’m not sure we played smart enough all the time. We just didn’t play well enough to win. We didn’t play well enough to win the series. We didn’t play championship basketball. But we fought. Unfortunately, at this time of year, that’s not enough.”
- And Jonas Valanciunas adding to it: “I don’t know. Probably it was the mental stuff. Not basketball stuff. Probably that was mental stuff.”
- It’s a random note, but the Raptors are the first No. 1 seed to be swept before the conference finals in almost 50 years. That’s not a great look, though it’s also worth noting that three times in the last four years, the Cavaliers have failed to earn the No. 1 seed, and they’ve gone 12-1 against the No. 1 seeds in those postseasons. It was also the biggest margin of defeat in an elimination game for a No. 1 seed ever. Cool.
No. 1 seeds getting swept, last 40 years
1983 Finals (Lakers by PHI)
1989 Finals (Lakers by DET)
1995 Finals (Magic by HOU)
2001 West Finals (Spurs by LAL)
2002 Finals (Nets by LAL)
2003 East Finals (Pistons by NJN)
2015 East Finals (Hawks by CLE)
2018 East Semis (Raptors by CLE)
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 8, 2018
The Raptors will have their locker clean-out day at BioSteel Centre tomorrow with end-of-season media availability. We’ll have you covered with quotes and notes, as usual. The big picture offseason takes will probably filter in a little later.
Thank you so much for supporting and reading RR all season long. It’s an emotional exit and it’s going to be a contentious offseason, in all likelihood, and while we’re all going to disagree, please treat each other respectfully in those debates. We appreciate you reading, commenting, using the forums, and generally making this the best team site community going. Seriously. I really appreciate you guys.