The weekend was finally here, and the city of Toronto (not to mention, the entire country of Canada), had a potential Friday night fiesta within its grasp. Its hardworking hardwood-squad was a victory away from advancing into Round 2 of the NBA playoffs. An occurrence that hasn’t taken place in 13 years; which oddly enough, transpired across the Brooklyn Bridge, as the Toronto Raptors ousted the New York Knicks on Madison Square Garden soil.
If you’re a Brooklyn Nets fan, solace was taken in the fact that a 26-point deficit was overcome in Game 5, however, fears of elimination have slowly crept to the forefront. Well, one wouldn’t have really known it judging by the crowd attendance, as Barclays Center was half-empty when the starting lineups were announced. Professional sports returns to Brooklyn and the arena isn’t filled at the time Game 6 tips off? Tough to get a cab in New York I’m sure.
Let’s not forget about Brooklyn strategically tanking their way into this matchup in the first place. I’ve heard the “resting players” theory and frankly, that way of thinking is delusional; turns out they underestimated the Raptors’ resistance. Or did they?
With Paul Pierce‘s impending free agency looming and Kevin Garnett on the brink of potentially calling it quits, this tilt had all the makings of a Nets’ gangbuster beginning. After a first quarter outburst to the tune of a 68.4 to 38.1 FG percentage differential, combined with a 14-4 disparity in the rebound department and a gaping-hole contrast in the paint, where Brooklyn annihilated Toronto 22-4, doom was emerging for the Raptors.
At least Mirza Teletovic and his wide-open looks from downtown were kept at bay (a cringe worthy experience whenever he’s left alone roaming the arc, meaning always), but as the first half came to a close, a dubious gem of reality was dropped on the masses; when taking into account the last three quarters played, Brooklyn was shooting a swag-worthy 60 percent, while tallying an absurd 104 points. Take a minute and let that stat marinate. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
Whether it was Jason Kidd‘s $25,000 fine from criticizing the refs, or Garnett claiming another Oscar nomination, the Raps were in foul trouble from the jump. To blame this loss on the whistle blowers, however, would not perform justice. Despite a late comeback attempt, the ghosts of inconsistent old habits came back to haunt the Raptors; foiling an attempt to close out the series.
This back and forth evenly-matched saga was destined to go seven games, but Kyle Lowry can’t play the role of savior every night. Where was the physical inside presence (or at the very least, an effort to achieve it) that was finally accumulated as the season progressed?
Brooklyn was given a free pass to the rim all night long. The matador-style defense of the past must be banished quickly if Toronto is going to survive. Its one-on-five confrontations, settling for jumpers, while four others stand idly by with popcorn in hand cannot creep back into the picture. DeMar DeRozan‘s split personality (superstar on offense, falling star on defense) is in need of treatment.
The festivities have been officially put on hold until Sunday. What’s at stake? The continuing maturation process of a franchise mixed with a chance at facing Chris Bosh in the second round. I’m sure the basketball gods would like the opportunity to witness that gong show.