Toronto Raptors Cannot Afford To Lose Game 5

By Michael Roberts
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Toronto Raptors hope to make it to the second round for just the second time in franchise history, the team cannot afford to lose Game 5 on their home court against the Brooklyn Nets.

With the series tied at 2-2 the Raptors must do everything in their power to avoid potentially reliving what happened the last time these two teams faced each other in the playoffs. In 2007 with LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers waiting after sweeping the Washington Wizards in the first round, the Atlantic Division champion and third seeded Raptors lost to the sixth seeded Nets on the road in Game 6. Unable to force a Game 7 in Toronto in 2007, the last thing the 2014 Raptors want to do is have their life on the line on the road in another Game 6 against the Nets.

With James’ Miami Heat waiting for the winner of the series after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats, the veteran Nets know they can’t allow a Game 7 to happen if they were to win Game 5. Brooklyn knows they’d be in for a war if they were to face the Heat in the next round and if they were to win Game 5 in Toronto they’d make it nearly impossible for the Raptors to escape Brooklyn with a Game 6 victory. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce understand the importance of closing out a series when given the opportunity with home court advantage; it’d be hard to imagine with them knowing the Heat are sitting and waiting they wouldn’t do everything in their power to avoid returning to Toronto for a seventh game.

With the impressive fan support the Raptors have received it’d also be hard to imagine the success-starved Air Canada Centre crowd would allow their team to lose a potential Game 7 in the event they won Game 5 but failed to close out the series in Game 6. The energy provided by those not only in attendance but also outside the arena would likely give the Raptors a significant boost in the potential deciding game. That’s not to say a crowd would defeat the Nets on their own — there’s no question the Raptors would have to deliver an incredible performance to advance. However, if Toronto was told before the series ever started they could just skip to Game 7 in Toronto, they’d take it in a heartbeat.

The Raptors have proven they aren’t afraid of Brooklyn and although the veteran Nets have experience on their side, Toronto has proven to be just as determined and focused as their opponents. With a seven game series likely favoring home court advantage, and veterans unlikely to let an opportunity at advancing slip away, there’s little doubt the winner of Game 5 will be the winner of this series.

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