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Between the anthem singer butchering ‘O Canada’ (“… my home and nation land …”) and the inflatable ‘Cinco de Mayo Peppers’ giving a shabby dinosaur a vicious timeout beating, Saturday was not a good night to be Canadian in Cleveland.

And let’s not even get into the basketball.

The Toronto Raptors have thus far in this series been either unlucky or cursed, depending on your rooting interest. Now they seem merely doomed. No matter how they play this, some part of their operation will let them down when they cannot afford it. And then, at the end, there will be LeBron James.

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LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after hitting the game winning shot to beat the Toronto Raptors 105-103 in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 5, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On Saturday, it was DeMar DeRozan’s turn to go AWOL during the war.

DeRozan was discombobulated from the start, could not find his shot and was benched during a fourth-quarter Toronto comeback. Had he been average, the Raptors would have won. Instead, he took over Serge Ibaka’s role as liability-for-an-evening.

“I thought DeMar had a tough game, but everyone went out and gave it to us,” coach Dwane Casey said. No one had said anything to him about DeRozan.

His failures were self-evident – 3-for-12 shooting on a -23 evening. He was a human anchor.

The low point was a 16-2 Cleveland run to close out the first half. Or maybe it was the 17 turnovers. Or Cleveland’s second-chance points. Or the start so flat it was two-dimensional.

But for a nice change, Toronto didn’t give up. The strategy was more mud wrestling than ballet, but it worked. Cleveland does not like being beat up, and it took its toll. It’s a little late to figure this out, but maybe it will help Toronto next post-season.

The Raptors tied it with eight seconds left. The pause that followed was the highlight of this series from a Raptors perspective. They were actually in a game, rather than in the process of either giving it back or giving up.

Then they went up to the other end of the floor. James peeled away from a two-man trap, took a ridiculous off-balance, on-the-run, one-handed shot and sank it. His buzzer beater put a stake in Toronto’s playoff heart. It ended 105-103.

Cleveland has now won nine straight playoff games against Toronto, stretching back to 2016. They ought to amend the Raptors’ Wikipedia page. The Raptors are now owned by LeBron James.

At best, you could say this one was neither heartbreaking nor humiliating. It was just depressing. The result was the same. The series is over now. Nonetheless, they will continue playing it on Monday night.

Now that it’s winding down, you could see the Raptors setting up their post-failure talking points. Once again, the officials were Toronto’s on-court scapegoat. ‘The league hates Canada’ storyline continues to fester because people can see how the players behave on the court.

Lowry is incapable of putting his hand up after a foul. He has to argue every call. That sense of contrived outrage is contagious. Casey repeatedly ran out onto the court to have a public conniption, which has yet to do his team any good. Even team president Masai Ujiri got into the act at the end of the first half, railing at the sideline.

There was one preposterously dodgy call – an Ibaka shooting foul that turned into an inbounds instead after James shouted about it for a bit – but poor officiating is par for the course in this league. The Raptors are no worse off than any other team. Especially one that doesn’t have the best player in the world on the roster.

“He has that edge,” Cleveland coach Ty Lue said. “Starting in the second round, I could see it.”

So this is all Toronto’s fault, but not in the way we’d imagined. It’s not just being bad that’s hurting the Raptors. There is something about this team and/or the city that functions as a red cape for the best player in the world.

As long as that’s true, nothing Toronto does matters. They haven’t been bad this series. They just have not been good enough – a very different thing.

Going forward, they either have to hope for LeBron to leave or accept the inevitable. They’ll return to knocking their heads against Door Number Two on Monday night.

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