Rautins: LeBron Not In Raptors' Heads

The Raptors unraveled in Game 1, but Leo Rautins doesn't believe they have a mental block against James and the Cavs

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
May 02, 2018 - 8:36 am

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The Toronto Raptors didn’t trail for a single second in regulation, and yet, they lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to Cleveland, 113-112, in overtime.

What happened?

“The Raptors defensively did enough to win the game, but unfortunately, the offense just went dry,” TSN and NBA TV Raptors analyst Leo Rautins said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “To me, it seemed like they just got tentative. They passed up shots they normally take. They missed some bunnies. Jonas Valanciunas had a great game (but) couldn’t get the simplest of tips to go down. He had a tip-in that could have won the game in regulation. So to me, it was more of an offensive issue to close the game. They got to find a way to get it back.”

The Raptors led by 14 after the first quarter and by 10 early in the fourth but couldn’t hold the lead. They shot 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) in the fourth quarter and missed their final 11 attempts in regulation.

Did James’ success against the Raptors – he was 8-2 against Toronto over the last two postseasons entering Game 1 – get in their heads?

Rautins says no.

“Name me a team in the Eastern Conference that hasn’t struggled with Cleveland – and name me a team in the Eastern Conference that hasn’t struggled with LeBron in the last seven years,” he said. “People make it like it’s a Raptors thing. It’s an Eastern Conference thing. The Raptors did the same thing against Washington. They had a couple games that looked like they just kind of got lost (and) lost their way offensively. Fortunately, they were able to regroup and do what they had to do. For the body of this game, they played well enough to win this game. Unfortunately, it just came up dry down the stretch. I think there’s a lot to work with. There’s a lot they can clean up.”

Like turnovers. Toronto committed 13 of them, which led to 21 points for Cleveland. Those miscues spoiled otherwise solid performances: DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 22 points, Valanciunas had 21 points and 21 rebounds, and Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists.

Amy Lawrence believes the Raptors simply have a mental block when it comes to James and the Cavs, but Rautins disagrees.

“The game did go to overtime, right?” he asked. “And the Raptors did have an opportunity to win in regulation and in overtime. Sometimes you just fall apart, you break down, things just don’t go your way. It’s Game 1 of the series.”

Perhaps, Lawrence said, but the Pacers had no fear of James or the Cavs in the first round and competed hard for seven games. They didn’t shrink in big moments or become tentative. Toronto did both in Game 1.

“If I’m not mistaken, Indiana, which competed so hard, they lost the game in Game 7 because they just ended up not making shots when they should have made shots,” Rautins said. “I think Indiana should have won Game 7 had they made shots they were making. But they didn’t make shots. So the Raptors had an opportunity to win this game, and they just ended up not making shots that they should have made and I thought, at times, played a little tentative. But again, I saw the same thing against Washington in the games that they lost. 

“So I’m not saying it’s a Cleveland thing, and I’m not saying it’s LeBron in their head,” Rautins continued. “I’m not subscribing to history here. This is a different group for the Toronto Raptors and a different team. What’s happened in the past, it’s happened to every team in the Eastern Conference. It’s Game 1 of a seven-game series.”

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