It’s really weird being a Toronto Raptors fan right now.
Ordinarily, we’d be thrilled to have our team in a conference final, one series win away from playing for a championship. It’s the furthest the franchise has ever gone, and there have been some reeeeeally lean years in Raptors history.
We saw a tweet the other day that mocked Toronto, saying that the all-time Raptors highlight was when Vince Carter won the slam dunk title in 2000 – and the depressing thing is that that’s probably true.
So yeah, it should be fun right now seeing the Raptors in, what is for them, uncharted territory and, theoretically at least, on the verge of playing for an NBA championship.
But the imbalance of the NBA is sucking all the enjoyment right out of it.
Even before the East final began with Cleveland’s 115-84 romp in Tuesday’s Game 1, the Raptors were 25:1 to win the NBA title.
Think about that for a second – they’re one of 4 teams still standing, and their odds of winning the NBA championship were 50% worse than the Blue Jays’ chances of beating out 29 other teams to win the World Series this year.
Oh, and if you still think there’s a glimmer of hope, how about this: the Raptors are now paying 80:1 to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy at Sports Interaction.
No wonder Jurassic Park was pretty much empty by the time the fourth quarter started Tuesday night.
To borrow Bruce Arthur’s great line in the Toronto Star Wednesday, the Raptors lost game 1 to the Cavaliers the same way a lawn loses to the mower.
While Golden State and Oklahoma City has already served up intriguing storylines in the Western Conference final and promises to deliver many more, the battle for Eastern supremacy appears to have less drama in store for us than a Canada/Germany clash at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
So is there any value on the Raptors?
We now interrupt this Raptors obituary to present a contrarian viewpoint.
Any time public perception is skewed this one-sidedly about a sporting event, value inevitably opens up in the sports betting market. No bettor wants a piece of the Raptors right now. It’s part of the reason why Toronto is a 12-point dog for Game 2, 1 point higher than the opener and 4 points higher than what the Raptors were dogged in their Jan. 4 visit to Cleveland.
The Cavaliers look unstoppable right now, and there’s no doubt in our mind that they’ll win this series. It’s very possible that they even defeat Golden State or OKC in the NBA Finals.
But we still think the Raptors can cover the point spread in a couple of games in this series, and possibly even win one.
Toronto’s not as good as Cleveland, but they’re not 30 points worse as they were in Game 1. The Raptors had had just one day off since closing out their second straight 7-game series, and that came with the emotional high of blowing out the Heat at home and advancing to the third round for the first time ever. For any team, that’s a really tough psychological spot – coming out with the same intensity and focus in the opener of a new series as you just expended in Game 7 of the last one.
There was talk about Cleveland maybe being flat itself, considering the Cavs hadn’t played a game in almost 10 days. But as LeBron James said after, the Cavs hadn’t exactly been sitting around. They took a day off, then hit the gym to work on things. There was no rust on the Cavaliers in Game 1.
This is a Cleveland team that needed 5 games to get rid of the Pistons in the opening round. Two of the Cavs’ four wins over Detroit came by 5 points or less. Yes, they took care of Atlanta very easily in Round 2, but that’s a Hawks team that has some deep-rooted inferiority complex issues when it comes to facing Cleveland.
Toronto may not beat Cleveland Thursday night, or even threaten to. The absence of Valanciunas and the toll that 15 playoff games has already exacted on the rest of the Raptors cast has turned what was already David vs. Goliath into a even more colossal mismatch.
But the situation Thursday will favour Toronto much more than Game 1 did. And when the Raptors return home for Games 3 and 4, they can benefit from being spurred on by one of the more passionate fan bases in the NBA.
We’ll be looking to bet the Raptors plus the points in Game 2, and likely in Game 3 as well.