It may have needed overtime and it may have needed a 52 point, record breaking performance from DeMar DeRozan, but in the end the Toronto Raptors did beat the Milwaukee Bucks 131-127 and with it, their 12th straight victory at home tying a franchise record. Yes, the Bucks speed and defence gave the Raptors fits all night like they did in last years playoffs, but in crunch time, it was DeRozan who pulled them through. And it was DeRozan himself who said post game that it was the fans that helped pull him through. Visiting teams beware… there is something different going on in these here parts.
Canadians, or more specifically, Torontonians may have finally shed off their “nice guy” image. What once was a happy, friendly party city where everyone was welcome (including visiting teams) has now become a stop that few teams want to make.
It is not because we are rude and childish and throw insults from the right field bleachers as they do in Yankee stadium, it is nothing like that at all. Although there was that beer can throwing incident a couple of years ago which was a result of one drunken person and not a representative of the fans as a whole. Teams from many leagues don’t want to come to Toronto because, quite simply, it is a difficult place for them to get results. Toronto teams are winning at home with great regularity of late and a small part of the reason why has to be the unwavering and passionate support that the fans have been giving them.
We can start with the Toronto Raptors who own an NBA best, 14-1 home record so far this year. There has been the occasional squeaker as they did last night or as they did against the Indiana Pacers earlier this year, but the majority of those victories were by double digits. Not that they were all easy victories, like the 33 point win over the Brooklyn Nets, but some of them were close enough to be in doubt until midway through the 4th quarter.
Even though there has been success at home of late for the Raptors, one troubling fact still remains. Throughout the entire Raptors playoff history (which really isn’t much to begin with) there really hasn’t been any type of home court advantage. They have a habit of losing the first game in the series at home and up until two years ago, never won a 7th game at home either. Hopefully this year, that too will change.
The same home advantage was enjoyed by Toronto FC on their MLS Championship run this year. They lost only once during the 17 regular season games they played at home. That was a wild 5-3 defeat at the hands of their 401 rivals the Montreal Impact. As impressive as that lone loss was, more importantly, they won 13 out of those remaining 16 games to earn 42 out of their record breaking 69 points at home. Although TFC did lose to the New York Red Bulls at home during the playoffs, not to mention the MLS finals last year against Seattle, BMO Field is still a place many teams just do not want to visit. Opponents may no longer need to fear fans throwing debris onto the field such as seat cushions and streamers (well, maybe a few streamers still get through) but they should and do fear how well the team has played here. They will need this advantage next year when they compete in the CONCACAF Champions League as they will most likely also be visiting hostile environments such as those in Mexico.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may not be near perfection at home as the Raptors and TFC are but their 11-5 record is still very good. It was a season and a half ago when they finished dead last in the NHL and every opponent, and I do mean all of them loved to come to Toronto. If you were on a scoring streak, Toronto would be an easy place for it to continue. If you were in a slump, no worries, the Air Canada Centre was a good place for it to end. Never scored an NHL goal? Have no fear, just look at the schedule for when you next played in Toronto and bingo! you will have your first NHL goal. It may not have been exactly like that, but it sure felt like it was for the longest of times. Bad enough you had to pay a trillion dollars for a Maple Leafs ticket, but to pay that much knowing there was such a small chance they were going to win, really didn’t help. Until now that is. After making the playoffs last year and starting out of the gate strong this year, the ACC is a fun environment for hockey again.
Well, fun that is for Toronto fans, not for the visiting team and that’s how it should be.
» Sports » No place like home