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Raptors rocked by the Cavaliers

NBA Championship odds (As of May 4):

Toronto Raptors (20.00)

The Toronto Raptors never trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 - until overtime. They were inches away from a buzzer-beater tip-in during the chaotic final seconds of regulation, but couldn't drain the winning basket after letting the lead slip away and eventually lost in extra time.

Once again in Game 2 against LeBron James and company on Thursday, the Raptors had the lead going into halftime. And once again, Toronto's NBA team fell apart. This wasn't quite as heartbreaking as the series-opening defeat, in which the Raptors, despite their collapse, still had a shot at taking back control in OT but couldn't.

For the Raptors, what occurred Thursday was disappointing, deflating, and shocking. Throw that redemption storyline right in the trash.

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With the final minutes ticking away, the Cavaliers had opened up a 22-point lead. Kevin Love had a solid 31 points and 11 rebounds - and that took a back seat to LeBron's performance of 43 points in 14 assists.
DeMar DeRozan? He had only 24 points for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry? He had only 21 points.

Those two results have completely flipped the script in this series. The Raptors, with Drake making headlines for his chirping the opposition from his courtside seat, trailed the Cavaliers 2-0 after consecutive losses on their home court.

The Raptors began Game 1 as the series favourites after rising to first place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. They lost only seven times on home court all season. Within a couple of days, they had lost twice to a Cavaliers team that is, of course, led by LeBron but isn't that far removed from its own struggles and a huge roster overhaul at the trade deadline.

The series now shifts to Cleveland with the Raptors needing at least the one win to extend it back to Toronto for a Game 5. The taller task will be to win four of the next five games to advance, and three of those games would come on the road. The Cavaliers had a solid home record of their own, with 29 wins in 41 games.

And LeBron doesn't appear to be tired at all - despite whatever was said at the conclusion of Cleveland's first-round series with the Pacers. In fact, he's continued to dominate and the Raptors had no answer for him on Thursday.

When the series began Tuesday, the Raptors' odds to win the series were 1.36, while the Cavaliers' odds were 2.85. By Friday morning, in the aftermath of Games 1 and 2, those odds had changed to 5.00 for the Raptors to move on, and just 1.12 for the Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, the Raptors' championship odds have also slid to 20.00, which puts them on par with the Boston Celtics, who are up 2-0 in their series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Raptors are certainly a skilled team. Their regular season record and offensive production certainly show that. They have a deep bench. They also entered the post-season with their share of doubters. Does this 2017-18 Raptors team have what it takes to eliminate the Cavaliers, who have won the Eastern Conference in three consecutive years?

What occurred in Toronto this week has only given the Raptors' doubters more fuel to drive their argument that this team, despite its obvious skill, is not a championship team.

Maybe the Raptors can offer a rebuttal during Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, beginning Saturday evening.

Otherwise, another great and entertaining regular season for the Raptors - and the hope for something greater in the post-season - will fall by the wayside courtesy another massive playoff disappointment.

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