While LeBron James "is not taking anything away from Toronto," the NBA superstar says he's glad his Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs — because unlike the Raptors, the Bulls actually wanted to be there.
In a press conference after the Cavs 96-94 victory over the Bulls to clinch the first-round playoff series Tuesday night, James praised Chicago's tenacity while questioning the Raptors' will to win.
"We knew that this team would push us," James told reporters. "Honestly … we wanted to play Chicago more than Toronto in this first round, because we knew we were going to get pushed a little bit more."
The Raptors were in a race with the Bulls for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but Toronto's chances were hampered when star forward Chris Bosh suffered facial fractures in a game against Cleveland down the stretch.
"That's not taking away anything from Toronto," James went on to say. "But with Bosh being out for the rest of the season, and all those injuries, it just didn't seem like they wanted to make the playoffs at the end of the season.
"Especially when you see the game between Chicago and Toronto in Toronto, you can tell they didn't really want to make the playoffs."
James was referring to the Raptors lacklustre performance during a 104-88 loss in a must-win game against the Bulls on April 11.
"It probably would have ended up in that same way if we had played Toronto, like it was last year," James said, referring to the Cavs 2009 easy four-game sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
The Cavs went on to sweep the Atlanta Hawks in round two and became the first team in NBA history win eight straight playoff games by more than 10 points.
But the Cavs met the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference final, and facing their first challenge of the playoffs, they fell in six games.
This year, the Bulls gave the Cavs more of a challenge, managing to stretch the first round series to five games. Which is something, James says, the Raptors wouldn't have had the drive to do.
"When Chicago made the eighth seed, we was excited about that, because we knew we had to be in tune every possession, every game, because that team plays hard no matter the score and no matter the time, and no matter what the series is," he said.