God's Plan Was For LeBron James To Extinguish The Raptors' Spirit With A Fadeaway Parade

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Toronto’s Air Canada Centre is a supposed to be an inhospitable venue for opposing teams. Raptors fans — led by the constantly interjecting rapper Drake (above, sullen) — have a prickly attitude, embrace a confidence-building slogan, and care enough to stand outside in the cold when watching their team lose. As the saying goes, the Raptors don’t just have a city behind them, but an entire country.

LeBron James snuffed out whatever pluckiness those poor Canadians had left after Game 1 and smothered it with a comical torrent of fadeaway jumpers.

The deadliest sequence took place between the final few minutes of the third quarter and the middle of the fourth, a seven-minute stretch during which LeBron drained seven honest-to-goodness fadeaways over four different helpless opponents. For Raptors fans, it was deflating not because sometimes good players get hot and hey what can you do, but because LeBron decided to embarrass everyone associated with the franchise by limiting his shot attempts to only the most difficult and inefficient. It was as if Tiger Woods brought only a pitching wedge to a tournament and won anyway.

A detailed recounting of something we can only hope to see once more, should the King be so benevolent:

  • 3:36 remaining in the third quarter: LeBron nearly loses his handle near the right block, turns around and splashes a fadeaway over Pascal Siakam.
  • 2:52: Step-back three-pointer with a gentle fade over poor Siakam, with a swish worthy of replacing 2K’s current sound effect.
  • 2:11: Dribble drive and finish past Siakam, who did not sign up for this.
  • 10:27 remaining in the fourth quarter: Rainmaker fadeaway over Kyle Lowry that briefly caused Mark Jones to malfunction and say something nonsensical about projecting a movie onto the ball.
  • 9:51: Another back-down of Lowry on the right elbow, another drained fadeaway.
  • 8:59: The doomed Siakam makes his return as Hubie Brown says, “Come on, he’s gonna have his way here...”; LeBron takes one dribble to his left and fades out of the left corner in a shot rarely attempted outside of NBA Hangtime. Mark Jones, quickly running out of descriptors, references fish grease.
  • 8:01: Not for lack of effort, DeMar Derozan watches another LeBron fadeaway fall through the hoop from the left elbow, this time with a friendly roll.
  • 6:20: LeBron backs Derozan into the left block, then turns around and perfectly floats another fadeaway from the deep left corner. He is the first one down the court on defense.
  • 5:40: OG Anunoby, touted as this series’ potential LeBron Stopper, is left in the dust by a big LeBron shoulder fake inside and his final turnaround fadeaway of the night.

In a playoff game, on the road, against the best team in his conference, LeBron attempted exceedingly difficult shots for fun. In seven minutes, the vaunted Toronto crowd went from ordinary frustration to stunned silence to groaning as if they had been personally and unfairly wronged, their pride having been forcibly removed from the arena. Hubie Brown — usually one for long-winded descriptions just about every event on a basketball court — could only mutter to himself in disbelief.

Toronto superior to the Cavaliers in just almost every way. After four consecutive playoff disappointments, this year was supposed to be different. Perhaps the Raptors should reset their expectations until LeBron, too, is extinct. |ES|

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