After taking the lead over the Brooklyn Nets with a win in Game 5, the Toronto Raptors got a first-hand look at just how valuable playoff experience can be on Friday night in Game 6 and were handed a 14-point loss at the Barclays Center to force a seventh contest on Sunday.
Heading into Toronto’s first chance to eliminate Brooklyn, those familiar with the ebb and flow of postseason basketball knew that this was coming, and like it or not, the reality for the Raptors is just as bleak going forward.
It’s never easy to close out a series at any stage of the NBA‘s second season, and against a roster littered with playoff vets, the task will be that much harder for the inexperienced Raptors. However, the history of postseason basketball is full of Game 6 disasters that were followed by Game 7 glory, and Toronto still has a chance to make that happen.
Having said that, it’s important for Raptors fans to remember exactly how this season started and the mood that surrounded this franchise prior to the December deal that sparked the turnaround. The frustration and disappointment that had become commonplace in a city desperate for a winner indeed started to change after years of futility thanks to GM Masai Ujiri, and this is something to be celebrated.
On top of the numerous team records that have been set this year like winning the second Atlantic Division title in franchise history and DeRozan’s progression into an All-Star, what matters most is the sense that these changes are by no means temporary.
Of course, eliminating the Nets and winning the first Game 7 in team history would likely make this season the most memorable. But regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the reasons for Raptor fans to be optimistic are almost endless, and for now, that has absolutely nothing to do with the playoffs.