Some statistics mean something, others less. But sometimes the mundane and borderline useless becomes handy, so perhaps the Toronto Raptors can draw some confidence from the title of this article.
About to venture into their first conference finals since 2016, the Raptors look back at previous years of disappointment and once again this season breathe a sigh of relief: They’re not going to play LeBron James in this series as well. So what if they’re going to face Giannis Antetokounmpo? They still don’t know how badly he can hurt them. Some of the guys on this Raptors team know very well how badly LeBron could hurt them.
In fact, the Raptors got knocked out of the playoffs back-to-back-to-back in the last 3 years by the Cleveland Cavaliers and James. In 2016 it was a close, 6-game conference finals series that hinted the Raptors will be a thorn in the Cavs’ side for years to come.
The sequels were less feel-good in their endings: Two sweeps in the conference semifinals, which led to the breaking apart of the DeRozan-Lowry partnership and the firing of Dwane Casey, a coach of the year last season.
So who is the last LeBron-less team to beat the Raptors in the postseason? The Washington Wizards in 2015, a painful first round sweep.
Looking past facts and statistics, the Raptors have plenty to worry about: On paper, despite the Jordanesque playoffs performances by Kawhi Leonard, they don’t have home court advantage, nor are they favorites in the series against the Bucks. The rotation is depleted or forgotten, and it seems that with every game that goes by, the Raptors have one less player to count on. Leonard might be at the highest echelon of NBA players alive and active, but he alone isn’t going to do it against a very good Bucks team.
And as we close this chapter on a fact that will probably turn out to be irrelevant, it’s a good opportunity to remind everyone of another team that has a long playoff streak of success: The Golden State Warriors, a team that’s only playoff series loss in the last five seasons has come against the same wraith that haunted the Raptors for so long: The Cavs & LeBron James, which happened to be in the NBA Finals of 2016.