LeBron James wrapped up yet another series against the Toronto Raptors Monday night with a dominating 128-93 win in The Q. His record against the Raptors in the postseason improved to an impressive 12-2.
James and the Cavaliers looked more vulnerable than ever after going through the gauntlet against the Victor Oladipo-led Pacers in the first round. A game-winner and a couple of iconic snapshots later, he’s further proven that the Eastern Conference is his conference. So is the city of Toronto, and the Air Canada Center.
Here’s how we came to know the newly-dubbed “LeBronto.”
2016 Eastern Conference Finals
Game 1: Raptors 84, Cavaliers 115
James’ stat line: 24 PTS (11-13 FG), 6 REB, 4 AST
James had a nice warm up in Game 1 in this series, which was highlighted by this violent showing of a dunk:
The Cavaliers improved to 9-0 in the postseason with the win.
“This score is embarrassing,” [Raptors head coach Dwane Casey] said. “But it’s just one game.”
Game 2: Raptors 89, Cavaliers 108
James’ stat line: 23 PTS (7-13 FG), 11 REB, 11 AST
Here’s how this one went:
“We’re not quitting,” said Casey. “Everybody can bury us, but we’re not quitting. I refuse to believe that.”
Game 3: Cavaliers 84, Raptors 99
James’ stat line: 24 PTS (9-17 FG), 8 REB, 5 AST
The Raptors get back into the series fueled by Bismack Biyombo, who had seven points, and 26 rebounds. “We didn’t play our game and they made us pay for it,” James said postgame. “We didn’t start the game as physical as we should have at the point of attack.”
“It’s a long series,” Casey said. “It’s not over with yet, but everybody thought we were going to get swept. I think that fuels us and if that’s what it takes, so be it.”
Game 4: Cavaliers 99, Raptors 105
James’ stat line: 29 PTS (11-16 FG), 9 REB, 6 AST
A combined 67 points from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan evened up the series at two. This was as good as it was going to get for them, though.
“Going back home, we have to play a lot better, and I think we will,” James said.
“We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back,” Lowry said.
Game 5: Raptors 78, Cavaliers 116
James’ stat line: 23 PTS (10-17 FG), 6 REB, 8 AST
Even Cavaliers fans got involved to speak for James, saying “You’re in Cleveland now.”
Indeed. And then James twisted the knife after the game:
”I’ve been a part of some really adverse situations, and I just didn’t believe this was one of them,” he said postgame.
“They kicked our butts, bottom line,” Casey said. “That’s been all three ballgames.”
Game 6: Cavaliers 113, Raptors 87
James’ stat line: 33 PTS (13-22 FG), 11 REB, 6 AST
James had 21 points in the first half alone, giving the Cavaliers a 55-41 lead at intermission. He was letting everybody know — including Drake — that it was his moment:
After the game, he said, “I know our city deserves it, our fans deserve it. But that gives us no sense of entitlement. We’ve still got to go out and get it. We’ve still got to go out and prove ourselves.” Of course, they would go on to upset the Warriors in the Finals, and give life to “The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead” memes.
“We’re learning,” Casey said. “We’re not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We’re going to be.”
2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game 1: Raptors 105, Cavaliers 116
James’ stat line: 35 PTS (13-23 FG), 10 REB, 4 AST
This was just a rude performance by James — even for him. First, there was the off-hand slam that was set up by Kyrie Irving laying one off the glass:
Later, he would erase a DeRozan shot. If we could show that block the ultimate respect, James would get his marked in the box score, and DeRozan’s attempt wouldn’t show up.
This was also a sign of how easy the series was going to be:
“I wasn’t going to run over our beer lady,” James said. “She had one and I grabbed it. I’m not a beer guy. If she had some red wine I would have probably taken a sip.”
“They were well-rested, flying around — almost like a half a step quicker than we were all night,” said Casey.
Game 2: Raptors 103, Cavaliers 125
James’ stat line: 39 PTS (10-14 FG), 6 REB, 4 AST
James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the career playoff scoring list in a game that was never really close. His 39 points say it all.
He was getting more settled into the series, as displayed on this shot against Serge Ibaka:
“I’m feeling pretty good,” James said after the game. “Just blessed I’m able to make a few plays tonight to help us win another game.”
“We take our butt whupping and head home,” said Casey.
Game 3: Cavaliers 115, Raptors 94
James’ stat line: 35 PTS (9-16 FG), 8 REB, 7 AST
Take it away, Coach:
“Sunday’s game is about pride,” Casey said. “You don’t want to get swept, especially in your home building.”
Game 4: Cavaliers 109, Raptors 102
James’ stat line: 35 PTS (11-22 FG), 9 REB, 6 AST
James was practicing left-handed shots in this one on his way to a solid closeout performance, in Larry Bird fashion.
Cavaliers' LeBron James with the spinning lefty dagger to slay Raptors... Gorgeous... pic.twitter.com/w5jIoK8fOF— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 6, 2017
No, really, he did it more than once — and the game was actually close.
LeBron James with the spin and left handed floater!— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) May 6, 2017
The Cavaliers became the first team to win eight straight playoff games the year after winning a title. They also became the first team to win eight straight games in consecutive postseasons.
“It’s on us to let this sink in and understand we gotta come back better, individual and team-wise,” DeRozan said.
2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game 1: Cavaliers 113, Raptors 112 (OT)
James’ stat line: 26 PTS (12-30 FG), 11 REB, 11 AST
James didn’t have a particularly good shooting night, but still had a triple-double, which turned into good nights for his teammates. It was needed after the Raptors jumped out to a 33-19 lead in the first quarter.
J.R. Smith scored 20 points, Kyle Korver had 19, Jeff Green dropped 16, and Tristan Thompson chipped in 14.
Anybody can cook you with a bucket, but the King can also cook you with an assist:
“My teammates were unbelievable tonight,” James said after the game. “They stepped up when I wasn’t at my best.”
“I don’t know if it was nerves or yips or what,” Casey said. “Just things that shot ourselves in the foot when we had a 10-point lead.”
Game 2: Cavaliers 128, Raptors 110
James’ stat line: 43 PTS (19-28 FG), 8 REB, 14 AST
This will be forever known as “the night Toronto turned into ‘LeBronto,’” and for good reason. Everything was fine for the Raptors, as they took a two-point lead into halftime. Then, the third quarter happened.
James had 15 points on 70 percent shooting with six assists and four rebounds. It led to the now famous statement by ESPN’s Mark Jones:
Toronto will now forever be known as LeBronto pic.twitter.com/5dLPjTmoAF— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 4, 2018
It wasn’t surprising for those around James. “This morning you could just sense it,” Kevin Love said postgame. “He knew what was at stake, he knew us getting another win here was going to be huge for us. He came out and he played that way from the jump. You could just sense that he was going to have a special night.”
“Sometimes when you’re put in tough situations, that’s what brings the best out of you,” DeRozan said. “That’s what point we’re at now.”
Game 3: Raptors 103, Cavaliers 105
James’ stat line: 38 PTS (14-26 FG), 6 REB, 7 AST
I’m just going to let James introduce this one.
“Tie game, down one,” he said. “I live for those moments.”
“I’ve been doing that since I was like six, seven, eight years old,” James said. “Maybe even before that. There’s a picture floating around of me beside a Little Tikes hoop with a saggy Pamper on and I was doing it back then and all the way up until now, at 33.”
At this point, James is feeling himself. “It is very difficult,” he said of the game-winning shot. “Don’t try it at home.”
“Fight,” Lowry said when asked what’s next. “Rumble. What else are you gonna do?”
Game 4: Raptors 93, Cavaliers 128
James’ stat line: 29 PTS (12-19 FG), 8 REB, 11 AST
The sweep was coming, and we all knew it. It was just a matter of how. Of course, it was with a brilliant performance by James in a game that was never really close. In fact, it was kind of sad that this was the way the Raptors’ season ended.
The final nail in the coffin was this shot by James. He backdd down Pascal Siakam, fell back into a fadeaway, and landed in front of the Raptors’ bench.
The shot put the Cavaliers up by 27, and destroyed whatever pride the Raptors were trying to show. Only James could make a 59-win No. 1 seed look like a No. 8 seed in the playoffs.
Much like the ones who used to walk this very Earth — these Raptors, too, are extinct. At least in the world of James.
“We want to be the organization who knocks that gate down. For whatever reason, we got the unlucky draw every year of going against him.” — Casey