Cavaliers completely sweep top-seeded Raptors

For the third year in a row, the Toronto Raptors ended their season by losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year appeared to be different with Toronto sporting the higher seed and a revamped offensive scheme, but it was the same old dominance from LeBron James and the Cavaliers that brought the Raptors crashing back to earth.

Cleveland completed the sweep with a 128-93 blowout on Monday, but it seemed like a foregone conclusion after Game 3, when James hit a buzzer-beater to negate a desperate comeback by the Raptors, or Game 2, when Toronto came out flat after squandering a late double-figure lead in Game 1. Nothing went Toronto’s way in the series, and more importantly, the Cavaliers appear to have the Raptors mentally figured out, as the last three postseasons have shown.

Toronto has lost 10 straight playoff games to Cleveland, beginning in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.

The Cavaliers had little trouble sweeping the Raptors last year, and the relative ease of this year’s sweep against an apparently improved Toronto team suggests the Raptors have no answer for James. Cleveland ran through Toronto’s vaunted defense, scoring in the paint with ease and recording at least 105 points in each contest, including two where they scored 128. James led the way on offense for the Cavaliers like he did against the Indiana Pacers, but Cleveland also got improved secondary scoring from Kevin Love, who had at least 20 points in three of the four games against Toronto, and Kyle Korver, who was 14-of-25 from 3-point range in the series.

For the Raptors, their latest embarrassing exit at the hands of the Cavaliers leaves them with an uncertain future. No one Toronto player had a good series against Cleveland, but the performances of DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka - two of the team’s three highest-paid players - left much to be desired. DeRozan’s offensive game fizzled against the defensive pressure of the Cavaliers, and Ibaka was largely invisible after beginning the postseason strong with 23 points in the first game of the opening round. The bench rotation that made the Raptors such a formidable opponent during the regular season could only keep pace with Cleveland, while Toronto’s starters were no match for James.

The Raptors might be wondering where they go from here with a payroll up against the salary cap and a roster that can’t seem to translate its regular-season success to the playoffs. Changes to the coaching staff seem possible despite Dwane Casey being a frontrunner for NBA coach of the year, and perhaps Toronto can find a way to turn its bench into a more potent starting lineup through a trade or two, But the Cavaliers know exactly where they’re going, and that’s to the conference finals to face either the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers.