When you hear media and players citing “this is a new season” in reference to the playoffs, it’s partially because the game itself takes on a new strategy. For the most part free flowing, fast break assaults tend to get replaced by half court sets and an emphasis on defense. Teams who’ve seen each other on three or four occasions over the course of five and half months will solely face each other in a 9 to 16-day time frame.  Each game takes on its own personality and sometimes (if you’re lucky) the series itself offers enough sub-plots to capture our imagination and excitement.

We’re two games into what is now a best of 5 series between Toronto and Brooklyn, and it has all the makings to enter the pantheon of a historic series.  Before the game 1 ball was tipped there was plenty of fodder to feast on.  First, the veteran packed Nets had seemingly tanked their final games with the hopes of facing an inexperienced youthful Raptor squad. Though some feel this move was more about aligning to meet the Heat who the Nets swept in the regular season, the fact remained Brooklyn was already looking beyond Toronto.  In retrospect, I wonder how wise this decision was since the Wizards look poised to take down the Bulls with relative ease and then likely face an Indiana squad who appear to have lost their mojo completely.

The post script of game 1 focused more on antics off the court than on:

  • With the horde of 10,000 plus who assembled in what’s been coined Jurassic Park cheering wildly to Masai Ujiri’s battle cry of “F___ Brooklyn”.
  • Raptor Ambassador: Drake did his part with a shot at his absent Brooklyn counterpart:  “Jay-Z is somewhere eating a fondue plate”.
  • The sold out crowd at the ACC chimed in by singing the Canadian anthem so loud the appointed celebrity vocalist gave in to the moment, electing to let their enthusiastic voices take center stage, and during the game the chants of “KG sucks” ostensibly threw the grizzled vet, who went scoreless the first half for the first time of his storied playoff career.
Garnet and Pierce

On court, the side bar of the loss focused on the effect of the Raptors first timer’s dealing with jitters and multiple turnovers leading to Brooklyn peacocking in their post game comments:

  • “You’d have to tell me who the GM is, I have no idea,” and “ I could care less what they think about Brooklyn.” Said Jason Kidd regarding Ujiri’s profanity. (Seriously, you don’t know who last year’s Executive of the Year is?)
  •  “That’s why they brought me here” “I think it’s just in the DNA,” “Everybody doesn’t have it. Everybody’s not born with it. You can’t buy it at Costco or Walgreens.” Pierce said in reference to his fourth quarter heroics.
  • “Yes (they wanted my headband),” Pierce said with a sly smile. “The cameras were on them so they wanted to keep their pride. You saw that the third time was the charm. (The Toronto fan) will wear it one day as a souvenir”, said Pierce. Personally I’d like to shake the hands of the two fans who threw it back!
  • @paulpierce34 truth-asaurus rex 1, raptors 0. Pierce retweeted from his account not long after the game in response to the Toronto Sun front page.
  • “It’s all good. It’s not our first time. When (I would) go to San Antonio, they’re similar. I’ve read this book before,” he said. “It’s nothing new. But I love the Toronto fans. They’re passionate, they love the Raptors, and that’s what’s up. That’s true NBA basketball”   was Garnett’s response to being parodied as a dinosaur in the Toronto Sun and to the rowdy ACC crowd who mocked him relentlessly.

Just one game later and the series tied, the confident Nets vets did an abrupt about face pointing to team flaws, taking umbrage with comments previously ignored in an effort to spur on their home town crowd and attempted to humble their previous cockiness:

  • “Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t.”  Pierce said afterward.
  • “We were a soft team tonight” Pierce added.
  • “I don’t know if you can say ‘F Brooklyn’ and come into Brooklyn, so we bout to see what its like.” opined Garnett who previously shrugged off the rally cry as nothing. I guess he’s hoping Brooklyn can produce a similar product to the frenzied fans inside and OUT of the ACC, the following video demonstrating the celebration of Tuesday’s win

Jurassic Park Game 1

For their part the Raptors took the high road choosing to focus on the role of underdog they perfected in this magical season and their inherent chemistry. Appropriately, the longest serving Raptors, DeRozan and Johnson, spoke at the post-game podium emphasizing the lack of respect they’ve faced all season which was poignantly addressed in the following responses:

  • Amir Johnson “we’ve (DeRozan/Johnson) been through the ups and downs of this team, we’ve been through 80 something players and different coaches. This year we’ve broken so many records and we finally made it to this level and I feel like we have a duty just to prove that we are a great team. It just means a lot for me to be here 5 years and finally get to this stage.”
  • DeMar DeRozan “We’ve been here when people just thought you come to Toronto and just get a win. It’s been frustrating seasons and we want everybody to know when you play against the Toronto Raptors, you’re going to have to fight, you’re going to have to bring your game.  That’s the passion every single guy on this team has, this organization have, for us to go through the struggle and start from the bottom and work our way up and still don’t get the respect we deserve we understand we still have got a long way to go” Full Interview

A day later, team chemistry was the echoed sentiment in the post practice interviews (along with humorous reactions to DeRozan’s stank face when he cleared the hurdle of becoming Toronto’s answer to Pierce as a closer):

It’s no secret this team feels disrespected and it’s hard to argue the point given how little coverage the team gets stateside, Lowry’s exclusion from the All Star team and even with a franchise best season they are still considered the underdogs.

Part of the reason is simply because the Raptors are Canadian as Cathall Kelly’s article eloquently pointed out.

In a conversation with a Raptor insider, he pointed out the obvious to me regarding why Toronto doesn’t get featured nationally during the season: “Because they (the Raptors) are in Canada, they do not register in U.S. TV ratings which inevitably create ad sales – therefore, when the Raps play on US TV – it’s like one team playing”  He further added “ It can be significant, but if they win a round or make some noise then the US networks are forced to put them on.” “They (Toronto) have to play their way on-same as Washington or Charlotte who also weren’t on ABC, ESPN or TNT this year.”

It makes sense from a dollars and cents perspective, but my marketing background kicked into gear with these thoughts:  Wouldn’t the Raptors winning present Adam Silver and the Association with the perfect opportunity to market their global image and expansion into Europe? Doesn’t Jurassic Park provide them with images to sell the game better than any ad agency could falsely re-create? Granted Toronto isn’t a U.S. market but several key advertisers are represented in both countries and opportunities exist for inroads in Canada which could lead to expansion with U.S counterparts.

How the series plays out may well come down to this coming weekend in Brooklyn in terms of the shape the final plot lines take.  Certainly neither team has played up to their standards yet, but I’m wondering if the Raptors who’ve been more consistent throughout the season may well have the upper hand, at least from a numerical standpoint.

  • Toronto tied Miami and Chicago as the best road teams in the East.
  • As highlighted by the player clips above, this team not only likes playing on the road, it embraces the challenge.
  • Without the home pressure, will Terrence Ross become a factor? If he simply produces his season point average, he can take the team over the top.
  • The Nets’ veterans will not have the benefit of multiple off days to physically recover with only one game separating these two home dates favoring the younger Raptor squad.
  • Could the timing of DeRozan recognizing his ability to be the closer be the AHA moment he’s been seeking since the trade, and erase the experience factor most prevalently pointed to as the Nets advantage?
  • Can the Nets find an answer for the Raptors dominance on the boards and front court size?
  • More specifically, exactly how are the Nets planning on dealing with Jonas Valanciunas who they’ve had no answer for?  The young Lithuanian has opened eyes in his first two playoff games matching standards set by Shaq and Sam Perkins:
    •  In his debut (17 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks) Jonas became only the third player in league history (Ben Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal) to finish with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
    • Over his first 2 games he became the first player since Ralph Sampson and Sam Perkins in 1985 (@eliassports) with 30 points and 30 rebounds.

demar_derozan.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo

Perhaps the best answer lies within the character of these two diverse teams; one full of grizzled vets who expect to win and were purchased by a Russian billionaire versus the youthful inexperienced underdogs who’ve dealt with adversity for what seems like much longer than a season.

The win Tuesday may have erased some doubts, but don’t kid yourself into thinking this Raptor team isn’t fully prepared to accept the role of underdog and face the adjoining adversity that comes with that role. They’ve overcome the odds all season and now that they have an entire nation backing them and have confronted their Goliath head on they are ready to take center stage.  I wouldn’t discount their chances of proving the naysayers wrong yet again, as they champion change north of the border.

While Brooklyn prepares to bring their version of  hard ball to Toronto maybe Casey put it best: “Now, the series starts.”

  • jjdynomite

    It’s amusing how much DeMar’s lady looks like DeMar; didn’t have to look at the #10 jersey before guessing who it was. But according to Wikipedia they’ve known each other since USC if not before…. if they get a puppy for their daughter it will start looking like them too. Oh yeah, great article as usual Tamberlyn. Psyched for Game 3.

    • (͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

      This comment is hilarious.

  • Ricky E

    Very good article. Makes me feel proud of this team regardless of the outcome. This team has heart and I actually can connect with this team over the VC yrs since most of those players were vets looking for there last run. This team can grow together and watch out for one another. Sounds like the Canadian way and I’m glad to see them embrace this culture.

  • jakdripr

    Nice write-up, hopefully we can get the split and at the very least take back home court.

  • Bob the Truthteller

    Great article! For all of DeRozans deficiencies if he can become this teams closer, he becomes so much more valuable. Love this team!

  • smh

    @Tamberlyn Richardson Raps in 5? 6?

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Hmm, my heart says 6, my mind says 7. Take your pick. Although if the Raptors take Friday’s contest with their aging legs the Nets may succumb to youth and run game Sunday. I think it’s a stretch to ask for 5 especially given all the outside intangibles.

      • smh

        yeah, 7 seems like the number, although I still hope for three straight (and clinching win at home would be completely nutters!)

        “outside intangibles” seems to be the story of the series so far, although I’m glad for the press the Raps and Nets are getting. It’s just seems weird seeing people over the age of 40 walking around in Raptors gear or even reading/watching/talking about the team. g R g!

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          I’m not sure why seeing people over 40 in Raptor gear seems odd. Many a fan became purists when the franchise began and many were already huge NBA fans. I get the uptake from the younger market, but it makes perfect sense to me why the 40’s and 50’s niche is equally excited.

          • smh

            ah, I am outside the GTA– SW Ontario, and it’s trying even to find any kind of Raptors related gear (no jerseys except NHL and Jays, a handful of caps at Lids), hence my delightful confusion at seeing this.

            • Gary Gill

              I’m a raps fan but I think the nets will win in 5.

              • smh

                that’s fair, a lot of people are writing off the Raps–nothing new with that. Hoping you are wrong though!

                go Raps!

                • Gary Gill

                  I think whoever wins today wins the series. They need to take back the home court right away or else nets gonna have momentum.

              • IC

                How dare you.

          • DC

            Bill Russell is 80. Is he too old to be interested?

            • Tamberlyn Richardson

              Personally I believe there is no age limit on passion, regardless of what or who it is for :-)

              • DC

                OK Tamberlyn, you’re off the hook for initially raising the age limit for excitability only to the 40’s and 50’s.
                I wonder if RR has some idea of the age distribution of readers. A poll could be interesting.

            • smh

              why, does he follow hockey religiously? Does he live in a country dominated by hockey, where even a tape delayed curling event takes tv precedence over a live Raptors game?
              Does he in any way relate or resemble a person who a year ago wouldn’t talk about basketball but is now decked out in NBA gear?

              What is your counterpoint, really? Did you take any time at all to actually read what I was trying to say?

            • smh

              Oh, my bad, I read this before the other one. Disregard my earlier comment.

        • DC

          Weird? What should people over the age of 40 be doing instead of following sports? smh!

          • smh

            LOL, I meant for basketball/NBA/Raptors as compared to NHL/MLB. When I first moved to SW Ont from TO, there was hardly any interest at all of anything outside of hockey (and/or the Jays)

        • why

          Older people can enjoy the moment as well – I am 52 and as excited as anyone else having been a Raptor fan since Day 1 and a follower of the NBA since 1974 – which was much more difficult to do compared to today.

  • Niagara_dude

    Disgraced ex-ref Donaghy says NBA pressuring officials to side with Nets

    • David>S

      Even though they play Friday – Sunday.
      This is the only first round series that has 3 two day breaks, every other series has 2 two day breaks except Wiz/ Bulls – only one. NBA favoring the Brooklyn Dinosaurs!!

    • afrocarter

      It has come to this: Raptors fans believing anything Donaghy has to say.

  • Niagara_dude

    Everyone send there concerns to NBA offices, there were many no-calls on the Nets even in game 2 (screens) that will only get worse playing in there building.Time to stand-up and be heard as this is a disgrace, no call in the 4th in game one is very hard to beleive

  • Tamberlyn Richardson

    As an interesting aside, today on NBA.com three of the six most popular topics/stories center on the Raptors vs. Nets Series

  • rapierraptor

    Thanks, for the entertaining read. Hard to know exactly what is going on with TRoss. I don’t think it has much, if anything, to do with feeling the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd. Anyhow, the psychology of this series is fascinating. Tomorrow is such a huge moment. I am very confident that Lowry and Jonas will show up to play. Grevis won’t be scared but he may be too amped up and end up playing out of control. Anyways it feels so good to know that the core of this team is in the upward trajectory of their career. This really is just the beginning for this Raptor squad, regardless of this series’ outcome.

    • jjdynomite

      Well, I was biting my fingernails for 3 solid hours and I was up in the 300 section; I can only imagine T-Ross, who has never been in any really big games in his college or pro career, feeling frazzled. I think he dominated in some high school state championships with Terrence Jones, but that’s about it.

      • rapierraptor

        Sorry I meant that I don’t think he’ll be any less nervous just because he’s playing in front of the Brooklyn crowd rather than the home crowd. Was just responding to one of her questions in the article.

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          You may be right, however I tend to think he will play more relaxed. On a whole he has enjoyed embracing the big games, he just wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of what happened at the ACC. The thing about this team is they really are a close unit who have excelled on the road b/c of their chemistry: band of brothers attitude.

          It’s solely a gut feeling, but the last time I wrote about Ross being due for a coming out party four days after he scored 51 points. I’m not saying he’ll repeat that feat, however I do feel he could relax enough to start hitting his 3’s while improving his defense. His defense was marginally better G2, but my gut says 3 times is the charm.

      • Heyjoe

        Terrence played in playoffs both years during college. I don’t think he’s frazzled, I think he’s frustrated by the refs callin 3 PF on him in game 1 1st half, 2 in very short succession. Could be that he’s seeing what Donaghy is seeing. Either way his frustration really showed in game 2, but I think he will bounce back. If he gets a hot hand the nets are going to find themselves really spread on D.

        • jjdynomite

          Terrence and the Washington Huskies didn’t make it out of the Round of 32 in his first year, and in his second year the Huskies didn’t even make March Madness; he and Tony Wroten lost in the NIT. So no, his teams haven’t torn it up in the “playoffs”. As opposed to Jonas, who played for powerhouse Lietuvos Rytas in many critical games, not to mention him starring in FIBA tournaments since he was like 15, often on foreign soil. So yeah, Terrence is not exactly experienced; he’s about as seasoned as DeMar — but with 3 less regular seasons of NBA play.

          Honestly, enough with Donaghy; if he was/is correct the Spurs should have won 0 championships given the very small market of San Antonio (and relatively non-flashy nature of the Spurs’ team play).

          • Heyjoe

            Well I”m not saying Terrence is a playoff vet, just saying that he did see somewhat big games in college, I mean this is still 1st round and his college experience is very similar considering they didn’t get far. I just think he’s frustrated by both his own play and refs, who knows though. I came to that conclusion when he was throwing his hands down when he was on his belly in game 2 I think it was.

            I don’t think that the Spurs winning sometimes means there’s no bias, especially considering that it is not a small market at all (seventh biggest city in USA and TX is second in population in USA). I mean just look at the call that westbrook got in game 3 OKC/Memphis, he kicked his legs up to try to make contact (although there was some hand contact as well) yet he gets the 3 + FT. Then look at the call on Lowry during Reg season vs. Sacramento (Larry Silver’s 1st official game as commish) where Lowry gets ejected on a shot that is very very similar.

  • Jake

    How many are making the trek to BKLN by car or air? I’d like to.

    • Gary Gill

      By car??????

      • smh

        doable, long drive but doable :)

        • Gary Gill

          Hahaha doable driving in New York City? Not really a smart move.

          • smh

            I read that quite a few fans are driving up to watch the game(s)

            • Gary Gill

              Wow driving in New York? Sounds a bit crazy if you ask me.

              • Guest

                Don’t be scared of life man. There’s a whole wide world out there to explore.

  • truth be told

    Yes, the Raptors have taken the “high road” this series. smh

  • raptorstand

    Who can ever forget KG wagging his finger in front of Calderons face and not getting a T. I want to see these aging douchebags humbled and horse whipped . New York sucks , the Nets suck , their coach sucks, and after the first game I want to see Peirce on his knees and not able to get up. Go Raptors , make a stand for Toronto , and Canada.

  • kayell

    Goliath was actually the underdog in the David/Goliath myth. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight, the slow and lumbering Goliath and his melee weapon had no chance against the quicker David with his slingshot.
    In ways that bears some resemblance to this series, the Brooklyn Nets are slower and hobbled due to their age compared to the athletic and agile Raptors, all though I wouldn’t say Brooklyn is the underdog like Goliath.Though some do believe they are.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Exactly :-)

    • Nippon Jeikobu

      Myth? If that’s a myth everything is. 😉

  • IC

    Something tells me the Raptors are in for an excruciating day of poor foul calls against them. I hope I’m wrong, but with these next two games in BKLN and the home fans chirping and jeering the already biased referees, i wouldn’t be surprised to say BKN get significantly more foul calls this game (not that anyone else would be either)…