If you look at the day the city of Toronto and their beloved Toronto Raptor’s had, it would be really easy to come to the conclusion that the Toronto Raptors have bitten off more than they can chew. Toronto Sun Times readers were greeted with an incendiary cover , featuring a picture of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce of the Brooklyn Nets and the headline, ‘ Raptors vs. Dinosaurs’. These are champions and MVP’s that really don’t need bulletin-board material, but when there it is. Later in the day if you were a proud Toronto fan you showed up early to a big rally at the downtown Air Canada Centre ready to get pumped up by the Toronto Raptor organization. What you got to hear was the General Manager of the team and reigning NBA Executive of the year, Masai Ujiri , in an effort to pump up the crowd let loose with an expletive. His exact word were “F… Brooklyn!”
If a fan was lucky enough to have a ticket to the game they saw a tight first 6 minutes. What everyone was expecting and hoping for . The drama was tangible. Kyle Lowery hit a three to put Toronto up 11-7 . Shaun Livingston, who is going to be the x factor for the Net’s, hits a jumper and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozen turns the ball over and at that point it is 11-9. The Raptor’s do not lead again until later in the third quarter when Terrance Ross hits a three-pointer that makes it 51-50. It is interesting to note that during halftime , the Toronto Raptor’s GM held a press conference. At this press conference he doubled down on his dislike of the Brooklyn Nets but apologized for using profanity in front of kids.
Adding to all this is the context of the last five games of the season for the Brooklyn where they were accused of losing on purpose so they could meet the young and inexperienced Raptors. This is an old jab thrown at at least one team a year because of the seemingly prudent common practice of sitting your star players . This has a myriad of benefits not the least of which it helps them avoid injury and gets them rest. Apparently the Raptor’s believed these rumors and used it as bulletin board material because the Raptor’s coach Dwayne Casey didn’t shy away from the comments either explaining that the passion of Ujiri is why his players play so hard for him .
Unfortunately for the Toronto Raptors the passion of the general manager could not inspire them passed the dinosaurs tonight. Even with Brooklyn missing 13 threes in a row, the Toronto Raptors could not overcome the size of the moment. This is where a team packed from coach to the bench with players who have been here before will ware down and demoralize a talented young team. Toronto is a good team. A smart, nothing-to-lose angle would help them. Instead they decided to embrace the bravado of their general manager and their home paper. Most teams would harnest that momentum to inspire them, especially being at home . Especially game one. At the very least , with that extra outside motivation and a higher seed raptors winning THIS game is the least they could do. When you have a day like this , it’s hard not to think the Toronto Raptors have bitten off more than they can chew.
by Daryl McElveen