The Raptors entered the NBA Playoffs with more promise than ever. The No. 1 seed.
An exciting, cohesive roster with established veterans and promising youth. A Cavaliers team that looked vulnerable all season.
It has meant nothing, and that is thanks to LeBron James.
After going 59-23 in the regular season, the Raptors now stand on the brink of elimination, down 3-0 to those supposedly vulnerable Cavaliers with little reason for fans to expect this series will be going back to Toronto.
It was James who ended Game 3 with a seemingly pre-destined buzzer-beater, drowning the hopes of a Raptors team that had just tied it at 103 thanks to a 3-pointer from rookie OG Anunoby.
The Raptors managed to claw back from commanding Cavaliers leads multiple times, but were never able to follow through and reverse the course of the series.
Their last chance was the most heartbreaking, falling to James’ buzzer-beater after a comeback throughout the fourth quarter.
James finished with 38 points, seven assists, six rebounds and one ice-cold game-winner. He is now averaging 35.7 points and 11 assists in the first three games of this series, shooting 53.6 percent from the field.
The Raptors tried to shake things up before the game, inserting guard Fred VanVleet into the starting lineup in place of Serge Ibaka and trying to go small.
That specific decision at least seemed to work out with VanVleet finishing as the only starter with a positive plus/minus rating, but it didn’t really matter as DeMar DeRozan posted his worst game of the playoffs.
DeRozan finished with eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, inefficient across the board, and zero points in the fourth quarter.
His defence wasn’t much better, lowlighted by a moment where he landed an elbow on James’ head while the star was driving to the basket.
Kyle Lowry was the main source of hope for Toronto through the game, leading the team with 27 points (15 in the fourth quarter) as well as seven assists.
The Raptors are on their last chance to show some life in this series and will get their next chance on Monday, again in Cleveland, but James will be waiting for them.