From the very start, the odds were stacked against the Toronto Raptors in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. By the start of the series, they had played the most games in the playoffs with 18. They had battled past the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat with superstars like Paul George and Dwyane Wade, only to face LeBron James, the 4-time MVP. Yet, they continued to persevere through impossible odds. The Raptors managed to tie up the series at two games apiece before losing to a Cavaliers team that won it all. Kyle Lowry overcame his shooting woes with clutch shots in games three and four, DeMar DeRozan seemingly found his touch, and Bismack Biyombo was an unstoppable, immovable force on defence. The team gelled at the most crucial point in every series. Their perseverance is more remarkable considering that Toronto had only 24 hours to prepare for their first ever Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
The Raptors endured a seven game series against the Heat whilst the Cavs coasted into the Eastern Conference Finals, posting Instagram and Snapchat videos of team bonding activities and dinners during their very generous nine-day break.
Can Raptors fans say it is fair that the number one seed got nine days of rest? Absolutely. They swept two consecutive teams in the playoffs—which in itself is a hard and rare feat.
Is it fair that Toronto got so little time to rest before their biggest matchup? Yes, it is. The Raps simply could have won their games earlier if they wanted more rest. The Cavaliers deserved nine days off because they worked hard to win those eight games in a row during the playoffs.
This is not to deny the Raptors’ hard work—their results speak for themselves. Nevertheless, the extra days would have been merited only if the Raps won their first two series in five or six games as opposed to seven.
The main argument against having longer breaks between series is fueled by pure pride and dedication to being an athlete. The most important lesson a sportsman learns is to not make excuses for himself—true winners will find ways to win no matter the circumstances. Of course a seven game series is toiling and difficult, and these athletes welcome all the breaks they can get. But professional athletes are venerated because they endure adversity. They accomplish Godlike feats that common men and women can only dream of achieving. Arguably, the fact that Canada’s only NBA team did not have a break before their series against Cleveland made Toronto fans more proud of their two wins in the series.
Despite having played more games than anyone else in the playoffs, the Raptors managed to pull off two great results in a row. They silenced doubters like Stephen A. Smith of ESPN's First Take by demonstrating what a winning mentality can achieve. In spite of Cleveland’s nine-day break, the “Other” team, the disadvantaged team, the underdog of the series and the playoffs, gave them a dogfight. Ultimately, that is what all athletes dreams of: Winning in the worst circumstances, under the worst conditions, and against all odds. Proving without doubt that you are the best in the world. There are no extra days off that could ever replace that feeling.