Bucks 100, Raptors 110 – Box

Fanapalooza was in effect at the ACC; DeMar DeRozan was given the night off after ushering in the Atlantic banner to the tune of fireworks; There was a dude doing an oil painting on the sidelines of an in-game Ross dunk; The well-fed ACC crowd executed a flawed but respectable Mexican wave; and the night was capped off with an ever-so-tasty ‘Za made extra special by a franchise-high 48th win which was never, ever in doubt.

There was an opposing team at the ACC, namely the Bucks who were no more than a prop in a stage show. Their role on the night was reduced to playing mannequins to the Raptors shopping themselves to any shot they fancied, and it was the three they fancied. The Raptors were 14-32 (46%) from long-range and were in cruise-control past the first minute of the game.

This was a night of celebration more than competition, one which was long overdue given the meagre returns on past seasons. Even Kyle Lowry, the focused veteran who has been the Raptors’ heart and soul all season, decided to play around a little and shot the ball 24 times, a season-high by some distance.  It was an amiable night for everyone – Greivis Vasquez Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, everyone.  Vasquez got to shoot his floaters and trailer threes, Ross threw a few down, Johnson hit some “summer” threes, and Valanciunas dominated in the same fashion as he had in Milwaukee a week past.

The Raptors were up by 13 in the first quarter and extended their lead to as many as 22 in the second half, but it may as well have been 74.  Any time the Bucks got a couple in a row to cut it to 12 or so, the Raptors executed a modest and predictable play to get a score and pull the game back.  Even when the Bucks slashed it to six in the fourth quarter, you knew a response was coming and it did in the form of forced turnovers punctuated by more threes.  Given the quality of the opponent we can’t quite draw any conclusions about anyone’s play, except to say that the team is having fun, clicking well, and that this game served as a good stretching exercise before things get real in a week or so, regardless of opponent.

“It felt good to get my bounce back. It made me smile to look up [to the rafters], to have something accomplished, to look up and see a banner up there.”

Amir Johnson

The Bucks did shoot 52% in the game, one which the Raptors didn’t necessarily approach with a view to tightening a leaky defense, but that of down-shifting on a back-to-back, so I’m not going to dwell on that little negative, nor am I going to read much into them crushing the Bucks 46-32 on the glass.  This was a glorified pick-up game where the outcome was settled very soon after tip-off.

Speaking as a fan rather than someone assigned to report on the game, it’s great to be in springtime (ignore the bloody weather for a second) and still have the best part of Raptors basketball to look forward to.  This has been a season of labour and toil.  The team has undergone a transformation, achieved surprised success and more importantly, sustained that success after the secret was out.  They’ve won big games, lost close ones, and have been in every contest. The Raptors remain the only Eastern-conference playoff team not to suffer a 20+ point blowout this season, and you already know about how we’re amongst the leaders in every meaningful statistical category since December.

The final game of the regular season looms large – Chicago is in Charlotte and the Bobcats have all to play for.  They’re one game back of Washington for the sixth seed and hold the tie-breaker, meaning that with a win coupled with a Washington loss, they could steal the sixth spot.  Washington, in turn, could move up to fifth with a win in Boston combined with Brooklyn losing to the Knicks and Cleveland.  Everything’s possible.  All teasier tors have to do is maintain their seeding is beat the Knicks on Wednesday, which is very much a possibility given how poorly we played last time out against them and how close the game was. Taking the longer view, with the Pacers grabbing the top seed the silver lining in a Nets 4-5 matchup might be that the second round, if we get there, might be easier than if we progress as the third seed.

“I’m more worried about us than I am who we play. I’m not going into this final game trying to control who we play. I’m more worried about our health, rest for our guys, and rhythm, and there’s a fine line between the two.”

– Dwane Casey

The playoffs will be challenging.  It would be foolish to discount the lack of playoff experience on the roster as a non-factor.  Playoff jitters are a fact of life, Vince Carter felt them, Chris Bosh felt them, and DeMar DeRozan will feel them.  There will be moments of self-doubt and hopelessness where every aspect of the game will seemingly go against them, and in those testing times it’s the safety net of the team that can buoy them.  Carter was eaten alive by Latrell Sprewell, Bosh was handcuffed by Mikki Moore, and the playoffs will bring rise to a nemesis for DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as well.  The difference between these playoff virgins and those of Carter and Bosh’s will be that this version of the Raptors is more likely to respond as a team rather than individually.  The mantra of the season has been collectiveness and winning without a bonafide superstar, and as much as you need a “star” to bring you playoff success, earlier versions of the Raptors had that player yet failed.  This group is the opposite, this wolfpack’s strength is in numbers rather than the size of one lone wolf, which makes them better equipped to handle the adversity that any playoff appearance surely brings.

Coming up a bit later, the Nick and Barry have Jack Armstrong on the pod but if you really can’t wait…

Hey, we’re selling this t-shirt to get some funds for the site.  Basically, we need to sell 50 for even one shirt to be made, so we need your help.  They’re only $14.99, so do grab yourself one.

Toronto Raptors Kings of the North T-Shirt

  • dave9t5

    RR Folks, as a long time lurker, I want to thank you guys for a great season! You stepped it up this year in lock step with the Raptors. The writing is getting better and better and getting up the Rapid Reactions really rapidly and the Post Games early in the morning keeps me coming back and making RR one of my first stops after a game. Especially living overseas, it’s much appreciated being able to find out what’s happened in the games so quickly.

    • WhiteVegas

      It was also a great idea to stop letting Tim W. write for the site (or severely reduce his writings, haven’t seen one in a while). Tim W.’s shtick doesn’t work when the team is playing winning basketball. He’s probably at home eating a fridge full of crow.

  • RaptorsInThisB*$#h

    Time to unleash Dwight!!! N im not talkin bout Howard……

  • Nilanka15

    How about we setup a poll?

    Would you rather face Washington then Miami?
    OR
    Brooklyn then Indy?

    • Stephen

      I want the good shot at a round win more than the (very) slim chance of winning two, so Washington / Miami.

    • ahoang

      I figure Brooklyn is playing this game too.

      Do we beat the Knicks to stay in 5th and then have to face Chicago in the first round and avoid Miami until the ECF?
      Or win, take on Chicago and avenge last year’s playoffs and then take it Miami in the second round since they owned them this season?

      • CJT

        What on earth are you talking about? We are in 3rd there is no way that we could face Chicago in the first round?

        • ahoang

          I’m talking from Brooklyn’s perspective.

          • Nilanka15

            With 2 games left, Brooklyn could be aiming to avoid Bulls in the first round.

    • WhiteVegas

      How about Washington and then Indiana?

      If Brookyln loses their next two and Washington wins their last game, then Washington gets the 5 seed.

      It’s all still up in the air.

      • Will

        That’s true but we would also need Chicago to beat Charlotte on Wednesday and we’d have to lose to the Knicks. That’s 5 separate games that have to go our way. It would be ideal but unlikely.

    • afrocarter

      I’m gonna go with Brooklyn, as it seems to be the opponent that Toronto is most in favour of. I think the Raps would get more psyched up for a match-up against the Nets, which would end up translating to harder play and greater focus. Plus, I’m sure they’d love to show the rest of the NBA why THEY, not the Nets, are the Atlantic Division champs.

      • Steverino

        The only thing I fear in a Brooklyn series is the refs. They love stars and Brooklyn’s got ’em.

  • Stephen

    At this point, there’s too much shit going down at the bottom of the standings to attempt to game theory the Knicks game. Given all the fluidity, I think the safest bet is to win it and hope everything holds to form.

  • Stephen

    Oh, and on the “experience” thing: that’s why I’d rather play Washington than anyone else. Best matchup AND they’re also relative neophytes.

  • DandB

    Does anyone know if any other teams raise their division banners? I’d expect that if San Antonio did this, their rafters would be full. Just not sure if this is a tradition that all teams follow..

    • 2damkule

      generally, only those with nothing else to honour…

      • Steverino

        Portland has division banners, and they’ve won a championship, albeit a long time ago. I’d guess more teams than not raise division banners. Only the elite few who have too many division, conference and league banners wouldn’t have space for all of them.

    • Patrick

      Generally, most do. The Lakers for a fact don’t, which is quite funny because their co tenants in Staples had to hide the banners that mattered just to feel good.

      Source: Lakers fan from Toronto

  • MoPeteRules

    Cool looking shirt but I wish it read “Kings of the North”. Kings in the North seemingly implies that Sacramento is in town. Or maybe it’s a spin on the fact that we have four ex-Kings on our roster, here in the North. Or maybe it’s an homage to Burger King franchises in the North. I don’t even know anymore. Let’s go Raptors!

    • Nilanka15

      Perhaps “Kings of the North” is too much of an HBO copyright infringement 😉

    • Nilanka15

      Actually, nevermind. “King in the North” is the term from the show.

    • feylines

      i wanna see g, patman, johnny and chuck all wearing these shirts

    • Rapchat

      Great line ha…Or maybe it’s a spin on the fact that we have four ex-Kings on our roster, here in the North.. HAHHA

  • afrocarter

    I seriously need one of those T-shirts.

  • stretch bigman

    “Wolfpack’s” strength might be in numbers on this team currently but to become a real contender and be a team that is in the top half of the conference year to year Masai had better realize a few of those in the wolfpack better be some Direwolves.

    • afrocarter

      This gives new meaning to the phrase “summer three”.

  • Pong

    I hope we can snatch a couple more of these banners in the coming seasons.

    Also, no biggie but you have “Bobcats 100″ rather than Bucks

  • 2damkule

    experience will be an issue…it’s not (necessarily) a playoff thing, just look at their record in close games (3-7 in games 3pts or less, 1-6 in OT). obviously, there’s a mix of ‘reasons’ for those records…some of it is pure luck (in a close game, a bounce here or a call there can be a deciding factor), part of it is not having a guy who can ‘take over’ & get buckets at will, but part of that is inexperience in dealing with those pressure moments. hopefully, they’ve had enough of them during the season that lessons have been learned, but things tighten up in the playoffs, the games are going to be tight no matter who they face, so unless they reverse their fortunes in close games, it could very well be a quick exit.

    so, avoid all that and just blow ’em the f^(k out…2nd best winning % in games decided by 10+ pts this season.

  • ckh26

    The reg season is almost over and no one thought this was going to be the way it worked out.
    -The ever optimistic TIM W was braying for a 33 win season as being the best we could do cuz thats what ESPN and BIll and Jalen said. BIll and Jalen are in show business and use basketball as their backdrop and ESPN has no more ability to see into the future than you do using liquor and guessing.
    -The not so pretty tong wars between Tank and Anti-Tank Nations and the merits of both arguement’s dominated the republic till February and showed the depth and passion the fan base has for the team regardless of which nation you align with.
    -The real venom on display for Rudy Gay before during and after “The Trade”..
    – The trade Kyle now …no.. keep Kyle and resign him debate

    And now we get the playoffs. I do hope we finish in the 3 seed and draw the Wizards. With equal parts talent, desire and luck we hopefully get by Washington and into round two. Where pretty much anything can happen. Miami may get more than they bargained for with the BobCats and Big Al coming to town. Miami does have issues with big centres.

    If on Oct 1 2013 you could have sold your soul in exchange for the 3 seed and the right to play Washington to advance to the second round of the playoffs few would hesitate…even if the second round was against the Heat.

  • Steverino

    I asked yesterday but didn’t get a response. Any idea why the t-shirts cost American dollars? It’s “only” $14.99 but that’s $16.47 CDN before taxes. Not a big difference, for sure, but it’s the principle!

  • Minks77

    Just want to point out that the teams we’ll be facing in round one are lead by young players who also aren’t playoff tested. Wall and Beal? Kemba, Hendo and MKG?

    Admittedly the Wizz have Gortat (41 games over 3 seasons in Whorelando), Nene (44games over 7 seasons in Denver), and Trevor (41 games Whore/LALA/Nawlins) but really, do ANY of those guys actually scare you?

    Spree was great vs Vince and is a poorly remembered player but he was handful in his prime. Mikki Moore… well that one is tough to brush off but, oh wait yeah, he shut down RuPaul. Chris looked shook in that series and he was the only legit “star” and the offence went solely through him.

    All that being said, Wizz or Kittens, bring it.