Can the Raptors get up in the kitchen of the Warriors?
The Toronto Raptors, from the start of their existence, have never been placed in a position to succeed. They were positioned in a difficult market in a country dominated by hockey fans. However, 24 years later the Toronto Raptors are a major point of discussion as they head to their first NBA Finals in franchise history. The fan base has been growing with every playoff run, however with every run that ended short, the occasional fan fell off. Not this year; with the help and will of Kawhi Leonard the Toronto Raptors have beat a lot of odds and questions and have made their first NBA Finals.
The city of Toronto has been salivating for a good team. Over the past 25 years the only teams that have won anything in this city where smaller market products (Marlies, TFC, Rock, Argos). However, for the large big market teams in the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Blue Jays; the last time the city of Toronto has seen a true final was back in 1993 when the Blue Jays last won a World Series.
The fan base has drastically grown; if you were watching the news on Saturday night, after the game, or if you were in the general area of Union Station you would have seen it and heard it. Fans of all shapes, sizes, colors, religions and genders where all on the same level and partying like it was 1993 (when the Blue Jays won the World Series). The streets were flooded with hardcore and new fans cheering, honking their horns and climbing on poles and busses. Even the TTC and Firetrucks got into the action – ripping their horns to get the fans even more pumped. In true Canadian fashion, no one was arrested, according to Toronto Police, which was fascinating considering when alcohol is involved it is hard to have thousands of people on their best behaviour, especially during a night like this. What if they win? Oh my, the city will erupt. It is an incredible thing to witness and if you were not downtown on Saturday then boy did you miss out.
Now for expectations, I believe regardless of how this series goes I think you can say that this season has been a success – but let’s not settle on 2nd place just yet. The Toronto Raptors open the series at home against the Golden State Warriors; defending champions and their 5th straight Finals appearance winning 3 of the last 4. A seemingly very difficult task, however I believe the Raptors match up well with the Warriors; proven with the Raptors winning both regular season matchups this year. Sure, the playoffs are a different animal, but the Warriors have faced significant injuries to their team with Durant and Cousins still listed as out and likely to miss most of the series. Iguodala is listed as day-to-day and it is unclear if he will appear in game 1.
The Raptors roster is healthier than Warriors and, sure, everyone is banged up in some way shape or form but the Raptors’ starting 5 are all up and willing for the next task.
How to beat the Warriors is simpler than it seems; stop the 3-point shot. The Raptors need to make the Warriors drive the basket and not give up open long shots as Curry and Thompson will hit those all day. Without Durant in the lineup the Warriors have a weaker offence in the paint, outside of Green. If you can force the Warriors into perimeter shooting off the line the Raptors will have a better shot to take and keep lead or get stops when trailing.
For my prediction, I still think the Warriors are just too good, even without Durant they swept the Blazers and still look pretty much unstoppable. They have an incredible team and I think every game will be close but Golden State will win the series in 6 games, with Curry winning the Finals MVP. I think the Raptors, powered by Kawhi will put up a fight, but I am not sure how much gas Leonard has left. He has done it before, however he seems to still be battling some sort of injury. The whole team will have to push and perform even better than they did against the Bucks and it will not be easy. However, if the Raptors do find a way to beat the Warriors 4 times then you bet Kawhi will be taking home another Finals MVP as the Raptors live and breathe on his performance. I believe in the Raptors as they have proved many people and “experts” wrong, but I still think the Warriors are an overall better team and if Durant returns, watch out.
At the end of the day my biggest advice to any and all Raptors fans hardcore or casual, is enjoy the moment. This has been an incredible ride and it has had everything from poor play to big comebacks and buzzer beaters. The Toronto Raptors are having their best season of all time; enjoy it.
The whole city of Toronto deserves every minute of this.
…DON’T YOU EVER FORGET IT!