It’s a tad ironic that after the extended two days between games schedule that’s characterized this series, we finally get a one day break when literally 100 per cent of Raptor fans are just now beginning to recover from the quadruple-bypass level heart attack that was delivered on Wednesday night.

The basketball gods are good (cruel, but good), though, and so, having made it out the other end, the Raptors’ (and our) reward is a trip to Brooklyn tonight with a chance to close out the team’s first playoff series since the Carter era. To call tonight a huge game – perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, perhaps a huge chance is more accurate – in Raptor history would be an understatement. It’s the first of two chances to knock out a star-laden team in a huge U.S. media market, with a potential matchup with LeBron and the Heatles looming on the horizon as the ultimate carrot. I’ll say no more about this until the series is over, but rest assured that the greatest player on the planet playing a playoff series in Canada could push the popularity of the NBA – and the Raptors – across the country into the stratosphere.

Managing to get there tonight, though, will be a question of what the endearing legacy of game 5 is. The first three quarters-Raptors could do absolutely no wrong – the ball was zipping around the court, Kyle Lowry was playing out of his mind, the defensive rotations were tight and the decision-making impressive. If those Raptors take the court and can hold that style of play all game, or for even most of the game, this series is theirs.

The fourth quarter Raptors, though, were completely neutralized by aggressive Brooklyn defence, stretch bigs, and Joe Johnson, and found themselves completely deflated to the point where they had to rely on a superhuman Lowry and Andray Blatche’s decision-making. In a weird way, the huge collapse can be seen as a learning experience – playing in the shadow of countless playoff disappointments across the city, these Raptors took the fans’ collective “oh my god, we’re screwed” mentality, embraced it for 10 minutes, and were able to pull themselves out of the well and escape with a win. It’s the kind of thing that should benefit this young group in the long run.

Of course, there are no more moral victories this playoffs. I’ll spare you all the breakdown, because we all know how tight these two teams are at this point – but tonight’s game will be all about mentality. If the Raptors can come out like a house on fire and put up a big number on the Nets in the first half, they might actually find it easier to close things out on the road – the roller coaster of emotions isn’t nearly as steep when the crowd isn’t pulling you up and down with them. If they come out flat, though, a hot home crowd may be difficult to deal with.

That being said, here’s a few things I’d like to see in tonight’s contest:

  • Feeding Jonas early and often, and putting him in the crunch-time lineup: Save for Lowry’s incredible performance Wednesday, Jonas has been – by far – the biggest advantage the Raptors have in this series. He can’t carry the scoring load by himself, but the Raptors should be feeding him the ball in the post until the Nets are forced to counter with double-teams, which will open up the Raptor wings and their ball-movement game. I’d also like to see him playing down the stretch. I realize that the Amir/Patterson combo has worked well in these playoffs, but again, this guy is our biggest weapon. If the Raps come up short tonight, it had better not be because he was nailed to the bench (unless there’s early foul trouble).
  • Yes to Ross, no to Salmons: Listen, I’m sure John Salmons is a great guy. He’s been around the league forever. However, I’ll take the offensively neutered Terrence Ross we’ve seen over the last few games over the current iteration of John Salmons 100 times out of 100. There were far too many possessions on Wednesday night that were almost sabotaged by Salmons throwing the ball to Chuck Hayes with 3 seconds left in the shot clock, or bricking a 3, or throwing a pass that was ultimately deflected. Even if Terrence Ross isn’t hitting, he’s not a minus on the offensive end, and unless he’s getting completely eviscerated by Joe Johnson, let’s let him ride.
  • More wings driving the lane early, please: Joe Johnson was held in check for the first half Wednesday because he was in foul trouble. That’s it. If that’s our best defence against him, well, we have one of the best wings in the league in getting to the line in DeMar DeRozan. Take it at him, young fella.
  • Masai Ujiri rescinding his apology pre-game, announcing his candidacy for mayor, and setting a stack of Jay-Z albums on fire: because sometimes you have to fire up the crowd.

Line on Sportsbook as of writing this is Nets -5, with an over/under of 191. 60 per cent of the action is coming in on the Raptors, per ESPN PickCenter.

Me? Sure, I have my doubts on the Raptors being able to close this thing out at home, but I’m going to be on a plane (aargh) for a potential game 7, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to be the one to pick against the Raps tonight. RAPS BY 6.

Get loud, get proud, and enjoy – you’re about to watch one of the biggest Raptors’ games of all time. Here’s hoping this group rises to the moment, just like they have all season.

  • the dude

    If Chuck Hayes is on the court in the 4th quarter tonight in a close game, please tell my family I love them.

    • plaid coast

      but you gotta admit that chuck is cute. he’s so much more likeable than austin daye, or john salmons.

      • anti-gay


        • Rapchat

          You could save time and just make your name “gay” and give people up votes?

  • c_bcm

    Masai was like William Wallace picking a fight with the English.

  • Season

    I hope TROSS’ swag and confidence doesn’t get checked at the border. If so, i’ll take Salmons defence and basketball IQ over him tonight

    • arsenalist

      Not sure if you’re trolling re: Salmons defense and basketball IQ.

      • Suspicious Mind

        Defense can be such a subtle thing. Simply put, the thing that makes a good defender is keeping your body in between your guy and the basket, as well as contesting and making shots difficult. As much as people seem to love to hate Salmons after the OKC game, he more often than not brings a quiet brilliance to that side of the ball. It’s never flashy, and lord knows he’s chewed to bits by our fickle fans every time he makes a mistakes, but if you watch him on a play to play basis with an un biased approach, you’ll find he’s much better than we give him credit for.

        • uke2themax

          Much as I’d like to rag on Salmons, I’ll have to agree with Suspicious Mind. I can distinctly remember a few possessions where Salmons played pretty good if not very good 1 on 1 defence against JJ. Even when JJ scored, it took him quite a bit more effort, and he ended up taking much more difficult shots than when Derozan was covering him. I’m not suggesting this will happen, but an interesting move might be to start Salmons and use him on JJ, and then bring Ross off the bench for (hopefully) a scoring punch. I realize Ross has somewhat been in a funk, but I’d still rather see him jacking up 3s with the second unit than Salmons.

          • Season

            JJ was unconscious in the 4th quarter. The man was on a mission. He actually showed some grit and heart (Unheard of on previous teams). The Salmons hate bandwagon is overshot. He plays his role and comes in giving you veteran minutes – His def on JJ was spot on. What surprised me by Ross’ spunk was his lack of intensity. At times he looked like a lost puppy with his tail between his legs. I guess they call it “growing pains” His careless plays on both ends of the court were frustrating. Now, the man is a shooter and he needs to shoot and keep shooting! But when the rock does not fall get involved and get your head in the game by doing other things. I expect good things from him tonight. Keep your head up high young buck!

  • elbow

    With the way Valencuinas is playing the Raps have to focus on guarding the perimeter and not allowing Brooklyn to make plays from there. Their points in the paint have come off dribble drives and quick interior passes on the free man. Brooklyn doesn’t have the mid-range game that Toronto has. I think this might sound rhetorical but if the Raptors play “Raptor Ball”, they have Brooklyn’s number. Games 4 and 5 the Raptors limited turnovers and forced Brooklyn to make plays, that is how this series can be won. It’s time we throttle these guys at their home and send a message to the rest of the NBA.

    • elbow

      Also with regards to Joe Johnson… I’d love to see the stats on his mid to long range 2 game, which I feel is very poor. Once the dude gets a step underneath the high elbow he’s virtually unstoppable because by that point the help is too slow. He loves the left side high elbow and more often than not kicks it out the left side corner three (think Anderson hitting that corner three). As much as you were hating on John Salmons, next to Landry Fields, he’s the only one who can guard Johnson effectively. He gives him NO space even before the gets the ball. Force him outside of the high elbow and make him take low percentage shots. Defense has to be apt that the Nets are running plays through either him or Dwill and that is something that will not change,

  • Ricky E

    I have faith they’ll close it tonight. There’s nothing the Nets have that the Raps can’t overcome and we are up by 1 and won 2 in a row against them. Why doubt them tonight. That 4th quarter collapse was more of a benefit to the Raptors. Instead of coming in cocky and expecting this game to be a breeze, they know they can’t take any quarters off especially with this team. They’ll be ready and its going to be awesome getting on ABC finally!!!! Bring on the Heat!

    • Suspicious Mind

      100% agree with what you’ve just said. The sports psycholgy in that near epic collapse ensures they remain hungry and aware of how you can’t take any possession off. Fully expect the boys to come out flying in the first Q.

  • RapsFanatic

    This is going to be a very tough game in Brooklyn. The pressure is all on the raptors to close out the series. I hate Brooklyn with a passion and their gonna be energized from the start. Their going to double team lowry on the screen and rolls, so Amir, Jonas, and Demar have to get it going from the start of the game. If they come out like they did in game 4, then game 6 is a wrap, but remember BKN has the momentum coming in to this game, because of their heartbreaking comeback. The raptors have to stay focused and understand it’s not over. BTW I hate how Jason Kidd is saying the raptors flop, this guy’s whole team commits illegal shit all the time, pierce travels to burlington like it’s nothing, and d-will tries to sell contact like he’s in a damn pawn shop. KG sets illegal screens all the time, and J-Kidd wants to talk about flopping? I really want the raptors to win to make the BKN nets stfu.

    • elbow

      Kidd is just trying to do a little of what Raptor nation did to the Raptors by selling them the underdog mentality. Look, who’s banged up? The Raptors are. How many Defensive and Offensive 3 second violations do the Nets have? I think if anything, that vindicates the sort of mentality the Raptors need to have, they have the Nets on the ropes, gasping for life, it’s to take the wood to them and knock them out cold. If it wasn’t Joe Johnson, the Nets wouldn’t be in this series. When they assembled this team together, who would’ve ever thought we’d be saying that about them? Obviously we are EXTREMELY fortunate that Brooks Lopez has been out all year because he’s an All-Star as well, and he would have perhaps nullified our advantage on the boards but to me Jason Kidd just sounds like a fat kid in a pool trying to tread water, time to push his head down.

    • Heyjoe

      Search on youtube for Jason Kidd flop and have a chuckle while reflecting on what constitutes a hypocrit.

      The flop vs. Portland deserves an oscar award.

    • stretch bigman

      Much pressure on Brooklyn as well. You don’t want a team to finish you on your home court,

    • Guest

      I get what you’re saying, but I’m not so sure that all of the pressure is on the Raps. Garnett risks being sent into retirement at home in game 6 at home. That’s ugly. I hope our guys come out feeling good and put these guys away.

      • DrDeRozan

        I would love for the Raptors to be the ones to send him there, we just need to keep that same Us against the world mentality to close this out

    • William C

      The only pressure the Raps are feeling is the overall excitement that they could actually get into the second round tonight. Yes, the Nets had momentum last quarter of game 5, but they lost, plain and simple. If I was the Net’s I’d feel as if that was a punch in the face. Similar to how bad it felt when we almost came back in Game 4. The nets have a lot to think about, loosing tonight and not advancing as they are expected to, KG, Pierce nearing retirement, 2nd year where they couldn’t advance beyond round 1 after their super power team up, the embarrassment, loosing to the Raptors. Not being able to match up with their Rival Miami Heat. Raptors have a game here, and if they loose they have a game at home, not saying they should think that way, but the pressure is definitely more on the Nets. Let’s see how both teams perform, I see this game going overtime for sure! Injuries, Flagrant Fouls, bad calls you name it, this game is going to be a dog fight. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the Referee’s are not necessarily calling these games in favor of the Nets, if their ever was a conspiracy going on, it seems like the Raptors are a more interesting team to advance for the League, there’s been a lot of US attention on the Raptors as of Late, I’m liking their chances tonight.

    • Some Truth

      Heart-wrenching comeback**

      For God’s sake.. Raptor fans be acting like we lost the damn game! Put on your big boy pants, a win is a win!

  • youradherre

    Pretty cool @Raptors shirt with “We The North” font –>

    • Rapchat

      Ummm.. Kyle & Demar & Jonas & Terence…NO AMIR??? Who’s idea was this???

      • Rapchat

        Put Amir on it I buy 1!

  • DrDeRozan

    We got this, every time the raptors have played a bad game (last 4th quarter), they understand that, and respond in the next game, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened tonight, and the raps have played great on the road all season, I think we win tonight by 8.

  • Rapchat

    THIS>>>> Post on Nets Daily…”The Toronto take over of Barclays is already happening just seen five vans with #wethenorth on the side of the van heading over to Brooklyn…hoping our crowd is energized tonight” HAHAHAHAHAHA YEAHHHHHHH!

  • noname

    can we have fields defending JJ already?! I mean come on!

  • Ted

    Why not Fields??
    Also, agree Jonas is the key to the game. Lowry got a lot of tough shots to go in during game 5 and thats not gonna happen two games in a row.

  • ZQ

    “Without a doubt,” Pierce said in the visitors’ locker room at the Air Canada Centre. “One game at a time, we got to take care of home. I think we will play better on Friday at home and we’ll see them back here Sunday.”

    Hey Paul, I will be golfing Sunday so I will see you on the links, ACC will be closed bud not sure if you’ll be able to get in…

  • asifyouknow

    Followed by jimmy fallon and 1 other

    Eric Smith ‏@Eric__Smith 6h

    .@greivisvasquez’s been big in games 1-5 too. Point differential when he’s in: +8, +12, +10, +10, +7. Highest of any player in series #RTZ

    • Rapchat

      = “greatest asset”

  • asifyouknow

    Greivis Vasquez ‏@greivisvasquez 36m

    We The North……… Let’s goo…… Ya aqui en el camerino con @jvalanciunas y jrc_stone listo para…

  • Chewwy No Matthew

    That was a terrible first half. The Raptors did nothing good. A lot of standing around on both offence and defence

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