A Master Class In Playoff Choking From The Best To Ever Do It: The Toronto Raptors

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

LeBron James credited his teammates with picking him up from an unusually subpar playoff performance.

“My teammates were unbelievable tonight,” he said after the Cavaliers’ 113-112 overtime victory on Tuesday night. “They stepped up when I wasn’t at my best.”

But back in reality, the Cavs’ comeback win had much, much more to do with their opponents.

The Raptors choked. Because that’s what the Raptors do.

Toronto missed their last 11 field-attempts in regulation, in a span of five minutes.

That included four misses from point-blank range in the final five seconds.

The Cavs’ first lead of the game came in overtime. It’s only the second time in the last 20 years a team has lost a playoff game without trailing in regulation, yet another astonishing feat of choking Toronto can add to their resume.

Heading into the postseason, Toronto had lost a ludicrous 10 consecutive playoff Game 1s (they’re now 2-15 in series openers).

If they fall to the Cavs, they’ll have been eliminated by a lower seed for the third time in five years (in 2017, they fell to a higher-seeded Cavs team with an identical record), including a first-round sweep at the hands of the Wizards in 2015.

Speaking of Washington, Toronto barely beat a Wizards squad that hates each other one round ago.

Back in 2014, they blew a 3-2 first-round lead to the sixth-seeded Nets.

Over the course of their 23 years of existence (10 playoff appearances), the Raps have never won a series against a higher-seeded team.

Their two best players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, hold nearly identical garbage playoff shooting marks of 41 and 41.1 percent from the field in their respective Raptors careers.

In their postgame remarks on Tuesday night, all the Raptors looked like they’d woken up to find themselves still in their nightmare of playoff misfortune.

“I think we’re a better team,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “We just didn’t make the shots down the stretch. I know it sounds simplistic but we had our open looks, had our opportunities that we didn’t cash in on.”

On paper, maybe. But in order to be the better team, you have to actually, you know, win games.

And if they can’t pull out a W at home on an off night for LeBron, they probably won’t win again until the 2018-19 regular season.