Tonight, the Raptors begin a series that is, perhaps, the culmination of the entire DeRozan/Lowry era, and the biggest of their franchise history by a large margin. Many are skeptical of the Cavs, and everybody agrees that it’s now-or-never for this Toronto team when it comes to dethroning LeBron James and winning the East.
As I do with every series before it begins, I went and looked up the betting odds on Raptors-Cavaliers yesterday.
According to OddShark, the Raptors are -205 to win the series and the Cavs are +175. For the non-bettors out there, that means a $100 bet on Cleveland grants you $175 with a win, and an $100 bet on the Raps wins you a hair under $50. Simply put, Vegas is fairly confident in a Raptor win.
This is certainly interesting, and many, including the posterchild of NBA gambling, Bill Simmons, have caught onto it.
I just want to point out that @KingJames…
(one of the 3 best players ever and someone who’s playing out of his mind right now)
…is a +160 underdog to beat Toronto
(a team that he’s owned all decade)
..in Round 2.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 1, 2018
Now, this isn’t a Raps hit-piece, because our team is beyond phenomenal, but I’m very wary about the amount of confidence that has been stowed among us all the way from oddsmakers to Sir Charles. Most of this doesn’t have to do with our team, but rather the struggles that Cleveland had a round earlier.
The Cavs’ narrative suddenly shifted from being a group of stingy roleplayers with an adequate LBJ-sidekick in Kevin Love to a bunch of guys being compared to LeBron’s awful 2007 teammates. All because of one round. Yes, they were mostly terrible and LeBron needed a Herculean performance to get them over the top, but let’s not discount some of the guys that they have, starting with Love, who has been a matchup nightmare against the Raps in games past with his ability to stretch the floor as a 5. Will he average 11 PPG like he did against Indiana? Almost definitely not. These Cavs are not great, but they are not as bad as prior, god-awful Zydrunas Ilgauskas Cavaliers teams that LeBron has willed to the Finals.
The confidence across the board in Toronto is great, but it makes me very nervous. The stakes for this series are more than words can begin to describe. We haven’t been taken seriously in the past, having to earn our place with a 59-win season, and even a seven-game loss will likely remove us from the American conversation every year going forward. A win, and we’re the team that slayed the damn dragon.
Which will it be?