Jones: These Aren't "Same Old Raptors"

LeBron isn't in the Raptors' heads; he's in everyone's heads

May 03, 2018 - 8:40 am

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The Toronto Raptors had no business losing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and yet, they lost it. Yes, despite leading for virtually all of regulation, the Raptors lost to the Cavs, 113-112, in overtime, making Thursday’s Game 2 essentially must-win.

What is the Raptors’ problem? Why do they seem unable to get over the hump?

“Nobody knows what the problem is, although I’ll say this: over the last three seasons, they have dropped Game 1 yet gone on to win the series three out of five times,” Raptors radio color analyst Paul Jones said on Ferrall on the Bench. “The two times that they didn’t, they were playing that guy LeBron. It probably wasn’t a good omen to drop Game 1, especially when they played so well. They came out with the right energy. That’s a tough loss too swallow.”

After the Raptors lost in soul-crushing fashion, pundits were quick to pounce. Jones was annoyed by that. So were many Raptors fans.

“We have had an increasing respect over the years in terms of the team becoming better and better and people within the league respecting the team,” Jones said. “But my brethren to the south in the United States, some of them – not all of them – one person says something and everybody jumps on board. Some of my colleagues in the U.S. give the excuse that their cable doesn’t work (so they don’t) get Raptor games. That does a disservice to the team, and they regurgitate the same old narrative, when it’s not true, and I think that’s what angers the fans. 

“Everybody says, ‘Same old Raptors. Same old Raptors,’” Jones continued. “Well, they’re not the same old Raptors. People say, ‘Well, LeBron’s in their head.’ Well, let me tell you: Over the last seven years, you’ve got Miami, Chicago Indiana, Atlanta, Cleveland, Boston and now Toronto this year: those have been your No. 1 seeds, and unless you got LeBron on your team, you’re not getting to the Finals. So for people to say ‘Same old Raptors’ and ‘LeBron’s in their head,’ I think fans take umbrage with that because he’s let nobody through to the Finals and he’s in everybody’s heads. So I think that’s where the frustration is centered with the Toronto fan base.”

Game 2 is Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

“If Cleveland (wins Game 2), people are going to have the brooms out in Northeast Ohio,” Jones said. “I think the formula is pretty much the same: they came out with great energy in the first quarter, terrific ball pressure defensively. The problem was they lost the other guys. They blew an opportunity in that LeBron shot 12-of-30, and in the Indiana series no other Cav scored 20 points.”

J.R. Smith scored 20 in Game 1, as he, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson combined for 69 points.

“Those four guys gave LeBron James help,” Jones said. “When he’s able to let somebody else drive the bus and then get out of the backseat and say, ‘Okay, move over, I’ll take us the rest of the way home,’ they’re tough to beat. The Raptors lost guys they needed to get a hold of over the course of the game.”

Smith and Korver hit five threes apiece, as Cleveland shot 14-of-35 (40.0 percent) from distance. Toronto, meanwhile, shot 9-of-28 (32.1 percent). The Raptors were 49-11 this season when hitting 10+ threes.

“You can’t do that,” Jones said. “You have very little margin for error as it is playing a LeBron James team. You can’t give them more shots at the hoop, more opportunities. You can’t give them free passes."