LeBron James scored 39 points on 14 field goal attempts and the Cavaliers handled the Raptors in Game 2 without ever looking bothered, as if he doesn’t see Kyle Lowry and friends as worthy of his attention.
Maybe it’s too easy for the King. The camera has been on him the whole series, and even at its tightest shot, when it’s zoomed in so close that you can see the latest efforts by his barber to preserve his hairline, there hasn’t been a hint of sweat on his brow. James’ headband is as dry as his Instagram humor. He looks like he just left a photoshoot after each game.
James against the Raptors is the definition of indifferent. One thing is clear: He doesn’t respect the Raptors at all.
Just look at the disrespect that he showed Serge Ibaka:
That’s a free-throw routine. James spun the ball around like he was about to get some shots up at the YMCA. Ibaka was as focused as he could be, in his stance with his hand up, and James played with the ball like he was about to show his little brother how to shoot a jumper in the backyard. He did that right after he had just made a similar three. Ibaka didn’t come to the United States looking for a chance to play in the NBA and live a better life to be treated so vulgarly. That’s not right.
All that disrespect in Game 2 comes after James pretended to drink a beer in Game 1. He was so relaxed about the outcome of the first game that he had time to entertain J.R. Smith. He’s showing the Raptors the same level of respect that the proverbial lion shows to the sheep. He’s only entertaining the Raptors as a metaphorical idea, rather than a real obstacle in his way.
James’ body might be playing against Toronto, but his mind is thinking about the next season of Game of Thrones. When he’s scoring with ease against Dwane Casey’s men, he doesn’t have the Raptors’ defense on his brain, but whether Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are related, if they will marry, and how gross that would be.
This disrespect isn’t reserved for this postseason either. Last year, after the Cavaliers beat the Raptors 116-78 in Game 5 of what had been a 2-2 series — the biggest playoff winning margin in Cavaliers history — James said rather plainly that being tied with the Raptors never struck him as an adverse situation:
"I've been a part of some really adverse situations ... and I just didn't believe that this was one of them," James said.
“But from the very moment that we lost Game 4, I was just very calm about the whole situation, seeing the good that we can prepare and get better for Game 5, instead of looking at all the bad that we did. Just mentally, just having these guys focus, and they answered the call.”
The disregard is so mean because the Raptors, for the last few years, have been the team that was supposed to dethrone LeBron James in the Eastern Conference. They were the liberators who would take down the tyrant king. And each time James hasn’t just beaten them, he’s done it with the attitude of a man who is annoyed at the fact that he has to answer work e-mail on his day off. The Raptors are the supposed challengers to his dominance, and he’s swatting them away with the casual boredom of a scientist who is tired of explaining that velociraptors were the size of turkeys and had feathers.
The sad part is that James has no reason to even give the Raptors his full attention. Toronto is playing like a team that is just happy to be invited to the playoffs. Its defense has been torn to shreds. Kyle Lowry is fighting ankle pain, and DeMar DeRozan is too busy shooting the ball at some mystical basket that only he can see. Hopefully DeRozan’s bad shots gain him favor in the other world where his shots are going in, because in this reality he’s just validating James’ flippancy.
On top of this disrespect by one of the greatest players of all time is the fact that the best Raptors team ever is on pace to be swept by the Cavaliers. Toronto spent years building a complete team — making trades, developing players, and signing big free agents — and now it’s about to be ushered out of the playoffs by a team led by a man who is more concerned with the flat-world theory than whatever defense is supposed to stop him. Life shouldn’t be that rough.
Maybe the Raptors will rediscover themselves and give James a close game — if not to win, then to at least refocus his attention back on the fact that he is playing against real people with real dreams, hopes, and families.
The Cavaliers will likely make light work of the Raptors, who should probably give up the pipe dream that they can beat a LeBron James team. Instead, they need to try to catch James’ eye, to make him notice them — because right now, he’s probably somewhere watching The Good Dinosaur and drying a single tear rather than studying film of the Raptors.