NBA Playoffs

Toronto Raptors Game 5 Summary - Why We Watch Sports

Source: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

Source: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

When people ask me why I watch sports, it’s all because of the games like the one on Monday night. Sports provide the biggest roller coaster rides in the world, and it’s rare to have a team you cheer for be successful throughout the duration of you cheering for them. What normally happens is you have very few periods where they’re at the top of the world, and then you’re brought back down to Earth for a very, very, very long time. Along with these periods, there are countless heartbreaks and moments that make you question why you continue to subject yourself to unnecessary stressful and heart-wrenching situations. Last night gave us a prime example of what sports do to people. They make you scream in happiness and hug random strangers, and then the next second your mind is boggled and there’s nothing that can make you feel better. Sports bring out these moments and once they’re over they sit with you for days after until the next game.

Source: Awful Announcing

Source: Awful Announcing

Game Five tested the totality of our emotions. With all the drama and story lines it was hard to focus on our game-plan and during the game I found myself always concerned where Kevin Durant was as opposed to focusing on the Raptors. Prior to the game, Downtown Toronto was electric and I had never seen lines that long for restaurants and bars over four hours before the game. And afterwards it was the longest commute I’d had in ages and the areas surrounding Scotiabank Arena were the quietest it’s been. From the start of the game you could feel nervousness, excitement, euphoria, stress, anxiousness and possibly every emotion you could ever experience, and by the end everyone felt the same way: defeated. 

Source: CityNews Toronto

Source: CityNews Toronto

There is someone else who felt defeated and his name is Kevin Durant. Coming into the series, I wanted to play against KD because I wanted us to beat the best. That being said, I didn’t think he looked ready to play at all and thought we wouldn’t see him (looking back, I wish the Warriors staff realized this too and didn’t put him in). So when I watched the beginning of the game I was surprised at how good his shots looked and I was happy that we were playing against the Warriors’ full roster. But when he pulled up and stopped playing I was immediately saddened. You never want to see anyone get injured, especially when it involves one’s Achilles. To think about all the hard work he put in over the years just to be hindered by this random event breaks your heart. And I know it affected countless fans around the world as well, but I also know there were also people inside Scotiabank Arena and outside the game that did not act as appropriately to this injury.

Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

This has been a huge debate ever since it happened, as people are saying how Canadians acted inappropriately and should be ashamed of their actions, and I know the people who cheered have realized their faults. It was evident they did by their reaction afterwards when they applauded for KD’s effort and chanted his name. My opinion is that it was an honest human reaction to the situation. I think that in any arena in the NBA, some fans would immediately cheer for the injury, not because they’re happy the player was injured, but because their team has an advantage. It’s a horrible response as it takes away from the understanding that it is a person these people are paying thousands of dollars to be entertained by, and it’s the reality that people forget how hard and how much these players have given up just to be playing in that situation. It’s easy to forget that each of these players are human when you watch them for entertainment and I hope that moving forward this is a learning experience for everyone who watched.

It’s not my experience with the people of this city...You understand this is about an individual, a human being and not, ‘oh, shoot he’s out, he’s hurt, we won the championship.’
— Steph Curry

Now, onto the game itself. We lost because we did not play well, it’s as simple as that. The Warriors set a record for 3-pointers made on the road in an NBA Finals Game with 20, and we only made 8. Our defence was not what it was in the prior games and our shooting did not match our efforts earlier on as well. There’s been much discussion as to the last play, but I think it was a great play with Lowry getting off a great shot. It’s just that Draymond played even better defence and somehow managed to get a piece of the ball on its way up. It was painful to watch as we all knew Game Five was the perfect situation to win and how amazing would it have been to have Lowry hit the game-winner after his years of hard work for our team. The emotion we all felt when Kawhi went on his 10-point run was unparalleled as we knew the trophy was minutes away, however we just couldn’t close it out. Like I said earlier, we watch sports to experience the highs that occur, and they wouldn’t feel as amazing if we didn’t experience the lows that come with them.

Source: Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Source: Chris Young / The Canadian Press

There are two possible games left and although we won’t be matched up against arguably the greatest ever team with KD out of the lineup, we have the opportunity to win the only trophy that matters, and we are unbelievably close. Best wishes to KD for his recovery and hopefully we’ll be able to beat him in the Finals to come.

2019 NBA Finals Preview - Raptors vs Warriors

Source: NBC Sports

Source: NBC Sports

Well Raptors fans, we have finally made it. After years of heartache, sweeps, “choke artists” labels, Drake curses and LeBronto memes, the 2019 Toronto Raptors are making their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. If they want to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the Finals, they are going to have to go up against a dynasty team in the Golden State Warriors. Can the Raptors defeat the juggernaut known as the Warriors, or is their experience and roster too much for the Raptors to overcome? I’ll explain to you why I believe the Raptors can de-throne the back to back defending NBA champions, and how they are going to do it.

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Some of you may recall that I wrote a Raptors season preview before the first regular season game, which you can read here. Some things were spot on, others…not so much. Saying this, one thing I did get right was the two teams to meet in this year’s NBA Finals. At the beginning of the year, I put down Warriors in 6, and if a healthy Kevin Durant was entering this series with the Warriors, I would probably stick with the same outcome. We obviously know that this is not the case, and this is a massive blow for the Warriors versus this Raptors team, both offensively and defensively. We have seen in these playoffs that the Warriors know how to play well offensively without Durant, and they have gone back to this high tempo exciting style of basketball that made fans first fall in love with the team pre-Durant era. They have made up for it defensively in the postseason because of the matchups they have faced, but they have not faced anybody quite like Kawhi Leonard without Durant on the floor. KD is the ideal candidate to guard Kawhi defensively, so without him, it forces others to take on this tough assignment. He may see doses of Klay Thompson or Draymond Green on him, but that then takes away from their other “normal” assignments and will leave players such as Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green more open for shots or drives to the hoop. KD is a very underrated defender, and this is where I feel that they will miss him the most. Saying this, they have done really well without Durant on the floor…and I mean REALLY well. A record of 31-1 well to be exact. The Raptors have been defying odds and records all postseason, so it’s time to do the same once again.

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

It was recently announced that Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins will be active for Game One tonight at Scotiabank Arena. While some may be worried about this addition, I welcome it. JD Bunkis of Sportsnet summarized my thoughts perfectly in this tweet:

I think this benefits the Raptors and allows them to play that comfortable lineup with Gasol starting. This probably cuts back Kevon Looney’s minutes, which I’m all for considering he’s had a decent playoff run. Give me all the Cousin’s minutes please. I’m here for it.

I think this is the best defence that the Warriors have played against in their five year run.
— Brian Windhorst, ESPN

You ready for some stats and numbers to be thrown your way? The big key here for the Raptors in this series is going to be their defence. The Raptors are ranked 2nd amongst NBA teams in the postseason in defensive rating at 102.8. Warriors are 8th at 110.8. The Raptors are also the most improved team defensively from the regular season to the postseason in these playoffs. Toronto is limiting teams to 41.7% shooting, while the Warriors are allowing 44.2% shooting. This is important because the Warriors are #1 in the NBA Playoffs in total field goal percentage at 48.7%. Another reason defense is important is because the Warriors are 3-13 this season when held to 105 points or less. That’s…not very good. It also just so happens that the Raptors are holding opponents on average to 99.6 points per game this postseason. That bodes well for the dinos.

Offensively it’s the same narrative for the Raptors: HIT YOUR OPEN SHOTS, especially the three point opportunities. The Warriors are ranked 14th out of 16 in the playoffs in opponent three point percentage, allowing opponents to shoot 41.9% from beyond the arc. The Raptors are ranked 9th in this category allowing 37.4% of shots to drop from beyond the arc. If the Raptors can get the shooting they have been getting from Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Leonard, Gasol and more, then it poses a problem for the Warriors and allows other guys to be aggressive driving to the bucket. If Danny Green can get his shot going again (and I believe he will), that’s another wrinkle that the Warriors will have to look to iron out.

Source: Toronto Sun

Source: Toronto Sun

If the Raptors continue to do the things they have been doing so far in the postseason, it will really test a Warriors team that is making it’s fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. As experienced as they are, this is a new team and a new test for this undermanned squad. With KD out, I like the Raptors chances to win this series in 7 games. Matt Devlin summarized this moment perfectly…we’ve been waiting 24 years for this. Now, it’s our time to show the NBA, the United States and the world why Toronto is the best city with the best NBA team in the world.

Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals - Warriors vs Raptors

Source: Fanatics

Source: Fanatics

Tomorrow, the Toronto Raptors will be playing the Golden State Warriors at Scotiabank Arena in a best-of-seven series to decide who wins the NBA Championship. 

After the past 24 years of ups and downs (with more downs than ups), Raptors’ fans waited year after year for the team’s first chance to become number one in the world. Countless new faces, rebuilding efforts, unforgettable sponsorship deals, and we’re finally here. This playoff run has no doubt been the most stressful we have ever had and therefore it’s been the most rewarding. But after all the excitement that unfolded in Game 6 vs Milwaukee, it’s time to straighten up and understand we still need four more wins.

Going up against a team that has won four of the last five NBA Championships is the reason you won’t see many people giving Toronto a chance. Then again, going up against Milwaukee also wasn’t in the Raptors’ favour. And then if you consider the Warriors adding Demarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant into their lineup this is one of the best teams ever constructed playing against a team that was created only a few months ago. I have to add that coming into this season, I was one of those people that questioned what the point of a regular season was if the Warriors were just going to win again. But after watching more basketball this season than I ever have, my mindset changed. 

Source: National Post

Source: National Post

After some time (the past two days) trying to debate with myself, my prediction is that the Raptors will become NBA Champions. You could say there’s a bias and there might be, but I’m still going with it. The energy around the city and understanding of the Raptors playing in the Finals is something unparalleled and I think not only will it resonate with the Raptors, but it will have an effect on the Warriors as well. They’ve normally had home-court advantage and although you can say they have all the Finals’ experience, I believe that coming into a country that just had one of its biggest sports moments will impact the game in more ways than one. 

I’m looking to see Kawhi take advantage on offence and although it’ll be tough with Klay guarding him, I’m thinking that we’ll see a similar offensive game-plan we saw for the past few games. That being, Kawhi facilitating in the first quarter and letting his teammates shoot the ball before taking over in the second half. However, you can say that this game-plan worked vs Milwaukee as he guarded Giannis and had to work much harder defensively than he will likely work against Draymond. If he’s able to rest on the defensive end and not be forced to switch onto Steph and Klay as often than this strategy will likely change moving forward. 

Now, onto the rest of the Raptors. First, Danny Green will be back. Something that was evident these playoffs is the law of averages, and with all of Danny’s experience you know he’s too good for the ball not to go in after all these shots. With Kyle, I’m expecting him to be more aggressive this series, especially if he’s guarded by Steph. He plays much better when he looks to attack and it will definitely open up shots for players like Green and Gasol. I’m expecting Fred, Norm and Ibaka to bring in similar stats they had in Milwaukee, but Fred’s 3-pt% will likely decrease. Someone I am really excited for is OG and although he’s been out of action, his length, defence and ability to stretch the floor is something that can only help the Raptors.

The Raptors will become NBA Champions
— Derek Gomes

Now, with the analysis behind us, there was something else I wanted to address. I was listening to Nick Nurse and he said that he doesn’t like motivating his team as the “underdogs” in this series and this really stuck with me. Whenever I played sports and we played a team higher than us in the standings, there was the extra motivation that came from being the underdogs and we thrived off that title. And then if you add every other typical sports movie the final part usually involves an “underdog” beating the first-place team in the finals.

But if you think about it from a professionals’ standpoint, their job is to beat whatever team is front of them. Does this mean the Raptors should be more motivated to beat Golden State in a 7-game series than Orlando? Does this mean if they were to lose against Golden State they wouldn’t be disappointed because they weren’t supposed to win in the first place? Now that I think about it, Toronto shouldn’t think of themselves as the underdogs. They need to think of themselves as an equal to Golden State, as another NBA team vying for the same title. They can’t disregard their own success this season when they took a nation to a place it’s never been before. The NBA Finals is a place where two of the best basketball teams in the world compete and the Toronto Raptors is one of them. This mindset might not work for every team, but with all the veterans we have, I think it will resonate better than our mentalities the past few years.

While Thursday night cannot come soon enough, I’m enjoying this five-day break because I know it’s exactly what the Raptors needed. The city hasn’t had this excitement since the Jays in the 90s and everyone on the team can feel it in the air. As soon as the ball is tossed up at 9pm, all of Canada will be watching and it’s incredible that we’re here to witness the Raptors’ greatest season. We thought the past few series were wild, but it will be nothing compared to what we see in these next seven games. 

I can’t imagine what emotions we’ll feel when the Raptors win their first championship and I can’t imagine how Toronto and Canada will react. But it’s time to stop imagining and start watching because the Toronto Raptors are four wins away from an NBA Championship.

You can follow Derek on Twitter @dgomes_11 and you can check out more of his content on Medium: https://medium.com/@derekgomes97