The Toronto Raptors were sooo bad in game 5 (how bad were they) they were so bad, that even the refs looked good. Cleveland put on such a devastating performance that calling it a blow out seems understated. By halftime the game was already over at 65-34. What does this humiliating, crushing, soul eating defeat mean for the rest of the series? Nothing, really. Lose by 1 or lose by 38, it still equals a one game loss. So as they come home for game 6 it is important to remember what recent history has taught us. The Raptors aren’t out of it until they are out of it because what brought Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals has been their resiliency and their versatility.
Throughout these playoffs this team just doesn’t give up. They have lost the first game in all three series yet have battled back. They have had to carry the weight of their own past failures when they lacked “it” to win. This year though in game 7 vs Indiana, a victory. In a game 7 vs Miami, another victory. No one questions their “it” now. On top of all that, they’ve carried the added pressure of wanting to deliver for this city where the local, rabid fans are desperately seeking and richly deserving of a winner. The success of the Raptors has satiated that need but we will take more if it’s available.
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Their resiliency has also been displayed in this series. They lost by a combined 50 points in the first two games, but have come back to tie the series. In game 4 they gave up an 18 point lead and yet did not crumble any further, continued to fight and in the end came out victorious. This team has had adversity after adversity thrown at them (some of it their own doing) and yet they have bounced back. The whooping they received in Game 5 is just the latest example and they’ll once again need to bounce back. This certainly doesn’t mean they will continue that trend, but it does show why they have been successful up to this point.
The other aspect of the Raptors success which doesn’t get much talk is their versatility. Credit goes out to Masai Ujiri and Dwayne Casey for assembling this team and tweaking it for the best chances of success. In Indiana we talked about Norman Powell and how important his contributions were. In Miami, Terrence Ross had a stretch there where he was effective playing small ball. When Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo needed to play like traditional bigs, they dominated. Even in this Cleveland series, something minute like Luis Scola re-inserted into the lineup and disrupting Kevin Love into a 5-23 (.217%) combined shooting at the ACC. Last night, yes Love made adjustments by driving to the basket more and he was successful. Now we wait to see what changes Casey and the Raptors will make to be successful in game 6.
Scola Is Dirty https://t.co/XLtIkmJRcR
— SINGH (@S1NGH7) May 22, 2016
At different times, different players have had to step up and they have. As much as I have criticized Coach Casey for his play calling late in games, he knows this team. Ujiri may have assembled all these pieces but it is Casey who has improved in choosing which style to play. This team suffers a great loss in Jonas Valanciunas to injury and they have a phenom in Bizmack Biyombo to take over. A player Ujiri signed this past summer because Charlotte didn’t give him a qualifying offer. Biyombo currently makes $2.8M but rumours just came out today stating he will sign this summer for close to $20M/year.
So as beat up as they were in their 116-78 loss, the Raptors still have a decent chance of winning at home and forcing a game 7. Mind you, they could also lose game 6 and be out, so be it. Raptor fans should be and are so proud of this team and the year they have had. But I digress, it sounds like I am writing them out already, I am not. The Raptors have proved the haters and the doubters wrong. They belong among the elite, they are where they deserve to be and should they bounce back well, that’s just what they’re made of.
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