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LeBron James is too great to fail against the Raptors

Toronto is trying everything to stop James, and still can’t. Welcome to how the rest of the NBA feels.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The important thing to remember is that the Toronto Raptors didn’t do anything wrong. They traded for P.J. Tucker at February’s deadline hoping his defense would help. They’ve tried different defensive approaches and schemes, just to make sure those wouldn’t work. Ultimately, they can’t stop LeBron James.

Everyone in the NBA understands their problem.

James scored 39 points on just 14 field goal attempts on Wednesday. He shot 10-of-14 from the field, hit 4-of-6 on threes, and recorded six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks. It was a typically nonsensical performance; you can probably count on one hand the players in NBA history who you could expect to record numbers like that in a playoff game. And it didn’t even look like James was really trying.

That’s an I’m-better-than-you-and-I’m-going-to-make-damn-sure-you-know-it three if I’ve ever seen one. A contested three! From LeBron James, who hit a basically identical one on the previous possession! James might as well have cackled maniacally and yelled, “GO HOME!”

Toronto has a problem. No one on the entire roster is remotely as good as James is, and no one can even come close. The Raptors have a collection of good players, with three scoring more than 20 points on Wednesday, but All-Star DeMar DeRozan didn’t even hit a field goal until the fourth quarter, while Kyle Lowry had the quietest 20 points you’ve ever seen.

Tucker, or DeRozan, or Norman Powell, can’t prevent James from fully exerting his will upon what was thought to be the top Eastern Conference contender against Cleveland. But can such a contender even exist? We’ve seen James get pushed in a non-Finals series before, mainly by Indiana during its brief reign as a true rival. But that was a long time ago, and Cleveland is filled with even more shooting and younger co-stars than Miami was. Even after a disappointing season filled with miserable defense, the Cavaliers still appear like the cream of the East right now and are making us look foolish for ever doubting them even for a moment.

Cleveland is only up by two games after the 125-103 win on Wednesday. Last year, we saw the Raptors go back to Toronto and tie the series up at two games each, after all. But that never felt serious, and neither does this. LeBron James has made it perfectly clear he’s too good for the Raptors to handle, and if they can’t handle him, how can they handle the rest of this series?

We could leave that question unanswered as a hanging rhetorical query, but there’s no need. We all know the answer; it’s unnecessary to leave any hanging doubt. They can’t handle him. And in two, maybe three more games, the box scores will officially show what we pretty clearly know right now.