Thanks to the wonders of dynamic ticket pricing, the Raptors Sunday afternoon game against the Lakers was the most expensive ticket of the year last season. We’re talking $90+ for back row fan zone seats where you’re squinting just to see the jumbotron. Kobe, Dwight, Nash, purple and gold put fiscally enthusiastic fans in the stands. Flash-forward a year to a present day Lakers team sans the aforementioned main card attractions of Black Mamba, Clark Kent and Kid Canada. Instead the Lake-show’s leading attraction is Nick “Swaggy P” Young and Mike D’Antoni’s moustache-hidden frown. So surely this game is one of the cheaper tickets of the season, right? Nope; double price for fan zone nosebleeds. Turns out people were paying more to see the purple and gold jerseys than they were the names written on them. Brand power yo!
The Raptors are coming off of a win over Minnesota that explains exactly what this team has become. The Raptors played very solid defense, for the most part, and enjoyed some flashes of good team offence that was buoyed by a couple of great individual performances, with Lowry 3 pointers and Amir Johnson put-backs and free throws as a result of offensive rebounding in particular. But none of that is what stands out in explaining who this team is. What wowed me about last night’s game was that the Raptors did not even play particularly well, and despite the score being close—even late—the game never felt in doubt. They were clearly the better team on the court, and they were confident in that knowledge. And they were playing against a Western Conference team with (albeit delusional) playoff expectations. That says a lot to me about who this team has become, and how they see themselves. They believe in themselves and at this point, so do their fans. Most importantly, both parties are justified in doing so.
This Lakers defense is exactly what the doctor ordered for fans of ball movement in the Toronto offence. While not nearly the midrange, iso-heavy offence of the early season, the Raptors are still prone to a lack of dynamic fluidity and creativity on the offensive end. See last nights plodding win over the Timberwolves. The offence did what it had to in order to win, but the Raptors won because of great defense and Kyle Lowry using game genie cheat codes to hit every deep 3-point shot with time expiring.
Tomorrow’s game against the Lakers should provide the perfect practice dummy for Toronto’s improving offence. Mike D’Antoni’s defenses are always bad, and it’s not just an outcome of pace. Giving up 108.7 points per 100 possessions is exceptionally bad at any pace. Ex D’Antoni players have revealed flabbergasting stories of Coach D teams not even bothering to prepare defensive game plans for playoff series. For this Lakers team, defense is simply the interlude between offensive sets. They give up a 29th ranked 25 assists to opponents per game while only generating a 28th worst 13 turnovers per game. They surrender a league worst 17.2 fastbreak points per game. Put simply, they give up easy points, and their defense completely breaks down in the face of ball movement out of the pick and roll. The Raptor’s bad habits of chucking long jumpers when nothing develops and getting stuck in the early motions of an offensive set are going to have a solid opportunity to set themselves straight against this Lakers team who plays NBA defense like it’s Timbits hockey.
When the Raptors can get flow on offense and use their defense and athleticism to score in transition they’ve proven to be a team that can hang with if not beat any team in the league. The Raptors are a young, enthusiastic team composed of young players trying to prove themselves and veterans who are almost all playing for new contracts next season. Another reason why this team has done so well lately is because they don’t take games off against lesser opponents the way more established, undisciplined or aging teams do. Plus, teams across the league are really enjoying a chance to beat up on the all-powerful purple and gold. Shake up the magic 8 ball and ask if the Raptors are going to win, and the card reads: “You may rely on it.”

  • Marshall

    It’s so true. Expectations have slowly but surely changed. All of last season I found myself giving the team moral victories and being ok with that. But that’s not how it used to be..

    I remember a time when the Raps would lose and I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone for 24 hours. I EXPECTED them to win and when they didn’t I felt let down and upset. But over the years of mediocrity my expectations had to adjust to something like “I’d just like to see a playoff series, even if it’s a 4-0 sweep”. That’s pretty much been the last 5+ years.

    I’ve been a fan since day one, and I’ve watched about 99% of their games, even “taping” them back in the VCR days if I wasn’t home (god bless PVR’s). EXCEPT two seasons ago when it was commonly known that they were trying to tank. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the games knowing they were trying to lose.

    Last seasons we saw some flashes of hope. A couple of young players in JV and TRoss gave us glimpses of what could be. But like any rookies, consistency was an issue. Then Rudy Gay came along and all of that development stopped and we “went for it”.

    We all know how that experiment went, so I’ll move on. Flash forward to today, and for the first time in YEARS I find myself getting upset when they lose. I still cant wash the stink of Boston off of me, but I digress…I love that we are playing in meaningful games, and have a team with a LEGIT shot at making some noise in the playoffs. Our rookies are blossoming and we have a TON of cap space and flexibility for the future. But I believe THIS team has a chance to do something special this year.

    And dammit I expect it now.

    • Nix

      word man. that’s exactly how i feel. i’m out here in australia and have been a fan since the days we first drafted mighty mouse. i used to watch every single game religiously. there was a time where i would genuinely be pissed off for the rest of the day if the raps lost (games are live in the daytime here in australia). it got too painful watching them not close out 4th quarters, jack terrible shots, never box out and give up second chances over and over again. finally they are actually playing like a winning team. finally they are actually playing defence and moving the ball around on offence. it’s such a nice change from the last few years of mediocrity. there is so much more to be gained from building on the success of this season and seeing how far we can take it in the playoffs. fuck tanking.

  • FREEJV

    This Lakers team scares me cuz they can light it up with all those shooters hopefully Raptors dont play down to their opponent.

  • leftovercrack

    Anyone hear anything about Salmons? He left last night’s game with back issues. I’m assuming he’ll be playing Sunday, anyone heard anything different?

    • moe

      him and psycho t are game time decisions

      • leftovercrack

        Demar and Amir need some rest, if those two are out they’ll likely have to log heavy minutes

  • hotshot

    “Tomorrow’s game against the Lakers should provide the perfect practice dummy for Toronto’s improving offence.”

    Since when have we started to be so arrogant that we think a sub 500 team is a gimme type of game?! We aren’t good enough yet to feel that. The Lakers did beat Boston the other day something the Raptors couldn’t do. I was also not thrilled with the game against Minni, they are starting to play ‘hero’ type of ball again instead of sharing the rock and becoming a shot happy jump shooting team instead of taking it hard to the rim.

    There are some kinks that have started to show and they need to be ironed out because if they don’t the Raptors could end up losing this one and I believe that even if the Raptors will will this game, it will be a very close game.

    • mike, prague

      They definitely need a blow-out win to get them back on track. It has seemed a bit shaky recently.

  • Tee

    The Raptors are 2 games above 500.

    “Relying” on a win?
    You can’t be this cocky dude. Didn’t this happen on this site before we played boston?

    I appreciate the article though Andrew.

    go raps

  • Roarque

    First D Day Lewis and now AT!! Stop it. Listen to Dwane and stop it with the arrogance. The Raps will only succeed from a mindset of the underdog. Stay hungry Terrence, stay afraid Jonas, keep striving for an all-star phone invite, DDR. Do not under any circumstances listen to the merde excreting from the poseurs that are the Raptors Republic bloggers.
    Bad blogger! Bad! Sit in the corner!

    • Guest

      LOL!

    • Andrey

      LOL it happened again

  • Milesboyer

    Yep, guaranteed win tomorrow and probably even Monday against Charlotte now that Kemba Walker looks to be out for a little while with a nasty looking sprain.

  • Rah

    Again, we’ve been a good team for five minutes. There’s no way we are entitled to be this sure of a win tommorow. If anything, this recent upswing has shown that only when the team plays with a very hard consistent effort is success achieved. Over confidence almost always leads to reduced effort.
    The last article that was this cocky on rr was right before we lost to Boston.
    Appreciate the website overall though, good job:) but let’s star focused and hungry!

  • Louvens Remy

    We da bess! Raps by 45 tomorrow.

  • Louvens Remy

    The fans being cocky has nothing to do with the Raptors losing. LA is going down in flames. They are drafting Wiggins.

  • j bean

    The biggest match up has to be Lowry-Marshall. Marshall is a great young passer with excellent long range numbers. Shut him down and dominate the boards for another win.

  • dunkonyohead

    Ya I used to re-watch the best games in my spare time. Some of my favourites was Carter’s rookie year when they played the Spurs in Toronto and Carter had a crazy over the top dunk over robinson, double pumping lay-up over duncan and just dominated them and also a knicks game when christie lobbed it to Vince for the craziest alley-oop I have ever seen. Can’t seem to find it on youtube which is crazy.

    I can name every single ex-raptor they show in that ex-raptor commercial with no words and that xylophone music. Rod strickland, mike james, dee brown, etc. That’s hardcore right there.

    • Marz

      Can you name all the insignificant ex-raptors, too? You know, Robert Archibald, Greg Foster, etc.? ‘Cause that’d be impressive!

  • robertparrish00

    From his days in Washington, Swaggy P has been going off putting up career best numbers on Toronto. So you can’t take this one lightly.

  • AB4EYE

    WTF is the deal with Hansbrough?

    He wants to play in every game no matter how bad he’s hurt and only misses a week after a Shoulder Sprain that usually keeps guys out a month at least but gets a ankle sprain they didn’t even mention during the game and is out going on 3 weeks despite media thinking he was ready almost 2 weeks ago and him practicing for over a week now.

    Dude has played in every game his team has played the previous two years but some how an ankle has forced him out of 9 games in a row and at this rate a 10th tomorrow, something isn’t right here!

    • ckh26

      It has been a long wait. Just speculation on my part but it must be ligaments. If you go to early your right back to square one.