Almost two weeks ago Toronto began their series versus the Brooklyn Nets with most NBA media analysts (save for Sir Charles Barkley) calling for Brooklyn to win. Now leading the series 3-2, Toronto head back to Brooklyn to close out the series. Improbable to some especially following last evening’s roller coaster ride these young Raptors are getting better with age. For the record, experienced playoff teams such as San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Miami have all had 20 plus point efforts either completely dissipated or cut drastically in these same playoffs.

Besides being up in the win column, other factors now begin to tilt in Toronto’s favor.  The off days between games early in the series were a definite benefit for the veteran laden Brooklyn squad, but now that the series feature games every other day the younger Raptor squad has to be given the edge.  Though some have pointed to Dwane Casey’s questionable rotations, the first three quarters of last night certainly highlighted the fact Casey and his assistants have mastered Kidd’s strategy.  Adjustments are made after each game, but unless Kidd plans to play Friday without the services of Pierce and Garnett there isn’t too much Casey needs to address on the Nets side. Rather, he’ll need to drill into his youngsters the importance of learning from that disastrous fourth quarter and temper his outrage with praise for what is going right.

One such recipient of this praise I suspect will be Terrence Ross who finally got out of his mini slump following what appeared to be a genie-like head rub from the searing hot hands of Kyle Lowry.

Lowry VictoryBrooklyn’s wily vets who tanked the latter portion of their season for the opportunity to face the inexperienced Raptors are likely questioning that choice now given how easily Chicago was dispensed of by Washington coupled with the imminent implosion of Indiana.

The Nets are now in a dog fight and become the team with all the pressure of burden to deliver. Brooklyn were assembled, or rather purchased to win now, while Toronto has made no secret this post season is primarily to build a foundation and offer their youthful core experience (it’s just someone forgot to tell them that).

Gone is the cocky game one Pierce who peacocked to the assembled throng of national media his DNA abilities wasn’t purchasable at Target. Now that DeRozan and Lowry have demonstrated it took just one game for them to find their clutch, Pierce is now sheepishly admitting these Raptors are a tough talented team who’ve earned the leagues respect.  Sure he’s saying they’ll win Friday and be back in Toronto on Sunday, but once again, given these 2 games will take place in the span of 3 days I wonder internally how confident he is after riding the pine for the closing quarter with teammate Kevin Garnett.

For his part, the once formidable Garnett has been handed his hat by a sophomore no less, and has been the key target in the Raptors pick and roll offense.  His beckoning for Brooklyn fans to arrive ready to punish the Toronto squad for GM Masai Urjiri’s profanity laced war cry apparently fell upon deaf ears as multitudes of Raptor faithful were spotted throughout the Barclay Center at both games. With their team on the ropes and Toronto on the precipice of just their second trip to round two in franchise history it’s likely we’ll see an equally strong showing from the Raptor faithful Friday.

For years these two Celtic vets dominated the Raptors while unabashedly rubbing it in Toronto’s faces. Perhaps we can excuse their naivety that stereotypically polite Canadians hadn’t forgotten those slights regardless of what jersey adorns their backs now. Beating this Brooklyn team on Friday or Sunday will equate to finally getting even for the loss to New Jersey in 2007 and all those Celtic drubbings.

To that end, I found some interesting coincidences in this year’s playoffs which link to the 2006-7 season:

  • Dallas had the best record: 67-15.
  • Golden State battled to gain the eight seed and went on to beat Dallas in the first round (the first time that occurred since the format changed to best of 7).
  • The stand-out sophomore on that Golden State team was Monta Ellis who is arguably the Mavericks leader now.
  • The team benefitting from the Mavericks upset was none other than San Antonio who won their fourth championship that season.
  • The team who lost in the championship that year (in a sweep) was LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • Dallas fired head coach Avery Johnson following their ousting and hired Rich Carlisle the following season who in turn hired Dwane Casey as his Assistant Coach specializing in defense.
  • Also following that season Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen became Boston Celtics.
  • For Toronto’s part that year, they won their first Atlantic Division Championship also in the third seed in the East.
  • Everyone in Toronto and Canada prayed for a New Jersey Net match-up so they could face prior Raptor Vince Carter. Well to be fair I posted on face book I wanted Washington because I was leery of exactly what happened.
  • New Jersey beat Toronto led by point guard Jason Kidd who averaged a triple-double.
  • Jason Kidd went on to play in Dallas where he won his first championship along with Casey.
  • Vince Carter now plays for Dallas
  • Flashing forward: LeBron James and Chris Bosh (in a move similar to Garnett & Allen) joined forces to play with Dwayne Wade in Miami. And, Ray Allen joined them when Boston’s Big 3 were no longer at the top of the heap.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see how interlinked these two seasons are and how many of the players/teams in that season are factoring in this year.

I digress so, back to this year:

 Raptors on Brooklyn Bridge

In one of the best playoff first rounds in years (perhaps ever) a key story line south of the border is the Toronto fan base in Jurassic Park. The effusive crowd who added to the teams’ jitters in game one has gone on to provide inspiration in Brooklyn in pre-game glimpses of the assembly and last night helped transfer their energy as the sixth man onto the court. Should the Raptors need to return Sunday or when they (hopefully) move on to the second round this fan base becomes even more advantageous.  For those sitting inside, the two areas I can see even we as fans can improve is to not chant during Raptor free throws (but go ahead on opposition tosses) and to be louder at key moments such as when the team needs a pick-up in energy or when you want to be so loud the opposition can’t hear each other especially on their defensive end.

Finally, for me the pivotal moment in this series can be debated but personally I believe it happened before the Game 1 tip when Uriji uttered his infamous profanity. That one action took the heat off the media focusing on our young Raptors and simultaneously resulted in the igniting of the Raptor fan base while inviting in the sport loving community to embrace becoming a part of this underdog team.

In a week where the NBA suffered humiliation for their unfortunate ties to an ignorant troglodyte this young relatively unknown squad and fan base should be exactly the type of storyline the Association embraces as they move forward to rebuild a positive all inclusive brand.

  • Parm

    Also, in 2006 we would have faced Washington if Mo Pete hadn’t made the miraculous prayer.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Yeah it you go to my personal face book page there is a note I wrote on the impending playoffs.I really didn’t want to face VC b/c I just knew he’d own us. That season all the big stars of Washington were hurt: Arenas and Jamison specifically so I wanted the Wiz who the Cavs swept I think.

      I also called for GSW who was 11th at the time to finish 8 and take out Dallas. It’s kind of what started me writing about BBall b/c people freaked out about those 3 predictions. The GSW pick to me wasn’t that surprising b/c they owned Dallas in the regular season AND Don Nelson was their coach (after leaving Dallas).

      It also was the year Robert Horry took a cheap shot at Nash and Diaw and Stoudemire came on the floor in the impending scrum so they weren’t allowed to play the next game. That was the year I thought Captain Canada would win his championship but alas Mr. June ruined that opportunity on a dirty play. Smart I guess in hind sight.

      • nathan

        Mr. June?

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          Big Shot Bob… (Robert Horry) has won seven championships i.e. they occurred in June. It was a feeble attempt at humor.

          • plaid coast

            i think most people got it. nathan’s not a reggie jackson fan, obviously.

  • Wes mantooth

    I like!!
    Although I don’t think the rest factor will be a key for game 5. Pierce and kg were rested a lot in this game. I have a feeling Kidd thought it might’ve been outta reach and just rode the younger players. Nets will have to give it there all in game 6 and if that means big minutes for the golden girls then game 7 (if there is one) will be our advantage.
    Hopefully Casey gets his head out of his ass and goes to fields for some defense! Cause if joe thinks he has the formula to beat the game 5 raps , Landry would be a very good new look on D.
    If I could beg Casey to do this I would l would be on my knees right now. Hmmmm

    • ItsAboutFun

      Are you old enough to have ever had back problems? Do you have any idea how crippling back spasms are? This isn’t a video game: the coach has to balance a LOT of things, including injuries to players he’d like to play more often.

      This constant call for Fields from many is like the crying for Psycho T’s energy. Yeah, high energy fouling of guys he can’t defend. He neither has the foot speed or smarts to cover anybody the nets use in the frontcourt, but the coach “is an idiot” for not playing him,,, sheeesh.

  • Roarque

    TR – please support me in promoting JuROSSic Park as the locale of the true Raps fans and hoping that our favourite Sophomore will soon “go juROSSic” on the Nets in Game Six. Why isn’t Jurossic a better nickname than the Boss?

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Have you asked TRoss? Tweet him and see

  • afrocarter

    That coincidence breakdown gave me goosebumps. Providence, I say. Providence is in the air.

  • DandB

    I wish we could bust out player name chants whenever they’re slumping or miss shots. Like if we busted out a random “T-Ross” chant at the home games, that would be awesome to show them that we’re behind him fighting to get out of the slump.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      LOL, go to my twitter account I actually called for that last night!

  • jjdynomite

    Love the Brooklyn Bridge pic. But why does Kat Stefankiewicz sound like someone broke her nose multiple times? I am curious how someone who has taken nasal to Fran Drescher levels gets a major marketing role… where she has to speak.

    • DDayLewis

      I’m curious as to why you’re being a dick to one of the nicest people involved with the Raptors organization.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      I consider Kat a friend who has always been supportive of my blogging and is a lovely person. I love how passionate she is about the Raptors and basketball in general. Coming off a week where the NBA dealt with a bully and judgement I hope we can all learn from this experience. Judgement should only occur internally, i.e. improving one’s own short comings.

    • NormB

      She sounds EXACTLY like Tricia Takanawa, Asian correspondent from Family Guy.
      When I say EXACTLY…I mean…EXACTLY !!

  • Wes mantooth

    As a matter of fact I have major back problems ! The relevance of that is about as relavant as bringing psycho T into this convo
    If you did you’re research they said Landry was healthy and ready go!
    So “sheesh” he’s the only guy on the roster with the size and foot speed to help with Johnson, but thanks for comin out

  • Chris Amor

    That Brooklyn chant at the ACC was pretty fun too. Brooooookkllyyyyyyn!!

  • mountio

    Good points on the crowd. A few crowd observations:
    – All games have been great .. but game 1 was definitely special (the weather, first game, on a weekend so less suits (or less suits wearing their suits at least … and btw Im one of them)
    – I think the overall crowd is much more electric than previous playoffs .. but the one thing that was better last time I went (vs NJ) was the random break out of “lets go rap-tors … VC SUCKS!” – the lets go raps break out once in a while this series, but not that often
    – The big difference though is the jubilation of every made bucket (especially 3s) is totally off the charts
    – Totally second the notion of cheering our guys names when they are down. TR would benefit from that

    On a non-crowd point, Greasy should play more with TR. The under-rated play of the game last night was when Greasy made the pass back to TR (after TR kicked it back to him at the 3 point line). He was open enough to shoot, but recognized that a) TR had a better shoot and b) TR NEEDED an open shot. KL is awesome, but he jacks that shot (which is great, cause he probably makes it …. but it doesnt help TR get back on track)

    • DDayLewis

      I think Lowry has done his best to get Ross going. Take this play for example, where he gives up an open three to eventually find Ross in the corner.

      • mountio

        Fair enough .. this is a nice basketball play as he kicks it to DD, who then kicks to TR (although the help defender was flying at him, so he wasnt fully giving up an “open” shot). Anyways, the point in no way shape or form is meant to hack on KL. Hes been great in all respects. But, because TR has been so invisible, I feel like both of them (KL and DD) are starting to look him off. Greasy might be the solution that can help break TR’s slump (maybe he did it already??), which is what we need if we want to have a chance against better opponents

        • DDayLewis

          Lowry was pretty open for that shot. I think he knew what he was doing because he saw two steps in advance, and knew TRoss would be open in the corner.

          I’m not sure about Greivis being more generous than Lowry or DeMar. That could be in-part because Greivis tends to be the main ball-handler in the 2PG lineup. That’s why he’s racked up more assists than Lowry so far.

          • mountio

            Its weird. On the one hand, Greasy is a total loose cannon and I think his shot selection (or shot vs pass selection if you want to think about it that way) is way off. On the other hand, he does have a little bit of that innate passing gene we has the the ability to thread the needle on a pnr or seems to just more naturally think about making a passing play than anyone else on the team. Hes a total dr jeckel and mr hyde in that sense … but I guess what Im saying is that when that passing gene takes over he does seem to have a sense of how to get people involved. By contrast, if there is anything “natural” to KL, its scoring. Thats his DNA.
            Anyways … I guess that adds to more assists (I hadnt checked the totals) – but its less about the numbers more about that when I saw him playing with TR, it truly seemed like he was invested in getting TR a shot ..

          • Tamberlyn Richardson

            Good point (no pun intended). I think they want Greivis handling the ball more (passing/driving) b/c they are attempted to do what they can to save Lowry’s leg. When Kyle distributes the ball he does a lot of driving the paint and kicking it out or passing in pick and roll scenarios. Either way it takes a toll on his legs so it’s a smart strategy.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      I felt perhaps the entire team got away from passing to TRoss especially in Brooklyn…. however you could see a concerted effort last night and like I said in the article I’ll take the genie-rub from Lowry over an assist because shortly after he rubbed his can’t miss hands on Terrence’s head he hit some shots.

    • ckh26

      Mountio on the random chants of VC sucks… I went to a Rangers game a couple of years ago with my brother in law at MSG. I hear this whistling start and he says wait for it… On cue .. 25 years after he had retired from the NHL comes a chant out of the nose bleeds POTVIN SUCKS . They did it a few times. So after a short 10 year hiatus Raptor fans still have a long way to go.
      I am in the camp of those who favour hanging Winces jersey at the Bermondsey Road Transfer Station.

      • mountio

        Fair point on Vince …. But my comment was as much about just kicking into the lets go raptors part…. That seems to be lacking.

  • NorthernUprising.Kev

    Can Jonas get 20pts and 10rebs in game 6 ?

    • crazycello

      If Casey plays him more than 25 minutes and his teammates pass him the damn ball.

      • NorthernUprising.Kev

        So true man, this guy can dominate, I like when centers dominate in a playoff series,I am tired of seeing Jonas beggin for the ball

  • jakdripr

    People really need to stop with the BKN tanked to get us in the first round storyline. We didn’t clinch the 3rd seed until the final day, so BKN could have easily tanked it’s way into a first round match-up with CHI. Kidd was probably just resting his starters because home court was out of reach and his teams health was more important.

    Really good write-up though, I’m hoping for a win on Friday(naturally), and under most circumstances I’d be sure the Raps would deliver. But winning 3 in a row against a team we’ve been going neck and neck with all season seems like a tall order for the boys.

    Either way though, gonna be one exciting weekend.

  • NorthernUprising.Kev

    Jonas is a gonna be big factor in winning game 6, he can punish teams for going small #LetJonasDominate

  • Andrew

    I came across this article by mistake. I was trying to figure out who TO would play in the second round.
    I read it anyway. Tamberlyn: this is a noticeably well written piece of writing. Just sayin’.