The Raptors Will Need a Miracle to Come Back Against LeBron James and the Cavaliers
Some things in life are inevitable. Death, taxes and terrible Twitter takes first come to mind. And now, it's time to add another one to the list: LeBron James dominating the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs.
Last night, LeBron bounced back from what he deemed a disappointing Game 1 (a triple-double of 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds) with 46 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds in 40-plus minutes of a Game 2 win, as the Cavs took a commanding 2-0 lead over the Raptors. And, after shooting just 40% from the floor and 1-for-8 from three in Game 1, James hit 67.9% of his shots, including some rather ridiculous fadeaway jumpers.
LeBron's fadeaway was 🔥in Game 2. pic.twitter.com/LhmtOMH60v
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 4, 2018
Seeing the King pull out his best against Toronto is nothing new, though.
With Thursday's Game 2 performance, he is now averaging 30.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks in 12 career playoff games against Toronto. He's shot 58.4% from the floor and 37.3% from three while going 10-2 in those matchups.
The Raptors are still waiting to exorcise their playoff-Bron demons -- and it's looking like they could have to wait another year.
History Favors the King
The Cavs went 3-1 at home against the Pacers, and they also won 29-of-41 games at The Q during the regular season. According to NBA Stats, the Cavs finished with the sixth-best offensive rating (110.7) at home during the 2017-18 regular season.
And, historically, LeBron is 89-25 (78.1% win percentage) at home for his playoff career, including a 26-7 record (16-5 with Cleveland) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In other words, you don't want to face him on his home floor, and unfortunately for Toronto, they have the distinct disadvantage of homecourt advantage, facing him down 2-0 as they head to The Land.
When playing at home for Games 3 and 4, James is 18-8 while averaging 27.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists with 2.0 steals and 0.9 blocks on the other end of the floor. Simply narrowing it down to Game 3s, LeBron is 9-4 in 13 games while putting up even betters numbers in nearly all categories (27.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks, 47% shooting).
Forget all the other factors: LeBron's teams are 21-0 in series in which they've gotten out to a 2-0 advantage.
(The Raptors, meanwhile, are 0-6 when on the opposite side of a two-games-to-none situation.)
The Numbers Are Bleak For Toronto
As the higher-seeded and higher-ranked team our power rankings, the Raptors started out as 57.24% favorites to finally overcome the big obstacle that is LeBron James in the East. However, it's taken just 101 minutes of play for the Cavs to pull a complete 180 and get to where they are now, at 81.79% to win the series, according to our models.
Here's a look at how Cleveland's odds have progressed throughout the series through two games, according to our algorithm:
|Cavs Win||Pre Gm1||Pre Gm 2||Current||Total Change|
While the most likely outcome is a series win in six games, the Cavs have nearly as high of a chance of closing this thing out in four straight now. In fact, Cleveland more than doubled those odds with last night's win a Air Canada Centre.
And, naturally, the exact inverse goes for the reeling Raptors.
|Raptors Win||Pre Gm1||Pre Gm2||Current||Total Change|
An overtime loss in Game 1 flipped the advantage in the series to Cleveland. On paper, Game 2's result makes Toronto's mission near impossible. Today, the Raptors have less than a 14% chance of winning the series in seven.
Value in Vegas
As you could imagine, things have taken a dramatic shift in Vegas when it comes to this series. The Raptors opened at -200 (a 66.67% implied probability to win), but they're now at +550, with an implied probability of just 15.38%. Despite the dropoff, though, there's a very small amount of value in Toronto, given our models' figures.
On the other side, the Cavaliers have worked their way to -900, an implied probability of 90%. Compare that to our likely outcome and there's not much value to be had. You won't exactly get a big return for your investment (though you're almost assuredly on the right side of the bet).
And if we've learned anything it's that you don't bet against LeBron James. You just don't.