After a soul-crushing Game 3 loss, The Toronto Raptors are 48 minutes away from being eliminated by the Cavaliers for the third straight year and the second time being swept. Believe me, I am extremely tired of the LeBronto Jokes and the LeBron memes of him owning our franchise, but at this point we are one game away from LeBron destroying yet another Eastern Conference team.
Before I read off the teams he’s sent into basketball purgatory, let’s have a moment of silence for the ‘should have been’ LeBron stoppers.
Who remembers the young and exciting 2013-2014 Indiana Pacers team that featured Roy Hibbert, Paul George and the league leader in triple doubles that season, Lance Stephenson. At the time, that was the squad that was next in line to challenge LeBron’s Miami Heat. Long story short, after constant defeats by the hands of LeBron, the team eventually separated. Roy Hibbert never looked the same, Lance left in free agency and Paul George never got his chance again. The Pacers went 7-12 against LeBron in the postseason during that run.
The team that LeBron left absolutely dismantled were the 60-win 2015-2016 Atlanta Hawks that had everybody and their grandmother raving about their depth. The Hawks built a team that had their 5 starters win player of the month and make the all-star team. Surely, they would give LeBron a run for his money? Nope. He went on to sweep them in back to back years and that entire team was blown up.
Honourable mentions go to Rose’s Chicago Bulls and the ‘Big 3’ Boston Celtics. Lebron doesn’t just own Toronto, he owns the Eastern Conference. Let’s just drop the LeBronto name because LeOwnstheEast seems much more accurate.
This article isn’t really about LeBron’s greatness as much as it may seem that way. It’s more about the teams that have self destructed during his reign on the Eastern Conference. With the Raptors one game away from elimination, it’s certainly looking like the best basketball team we have ever assembled is headed down the path to LeBron’s graveyard of Eastern Conference opponents.
This could mean many things from a coaching change or trading core pieces to build for a post-LeBron era. In game 3, Toronto decided to go with the unit that brought them back into the game, which meant sitting our franchise player, DeMar DeRozan for the fourth quarter. I can’t imagine any superstar being completely removed from the most important game of the season. It’s too early to say whether that decision will reflect worse on Casey or DeRozan, but the Raptors have a lot to reconsider this coming off-season.
Game 4 tips-off Monday night, and let’s hope this team isn’t as defeated as their fans are right now. If the Raptors can avoid the humiliating sweep and bring the series back to Toronto, then maybe the franchise can also avoid the Eastern Conference purgatory for one more season.