Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca
Blame Bismack Biyombo.
Two seasons ago, Biyombo was trying to rally the Toronto Raptors for Game 6 of their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Up 3-2 in the series, Biyombo misspoke and said he was looking forward to Game 7. Catching himself, Biyombo corrected to Game 6, then said it was only the team’s mindset that was treating Game 6 like Game 7. Treating non-Game 7s like a Game 7 has been a cliche for some time, and it was at this point that it sort of became the Playoff Raptors cliche.
To wit, Kyle Lowry referred to Game 1 of the team’s series with the Washington Wizards this year as “our Game 7.” The Raptors won, and yet here they are, with three more wins to go in the series. So guess what they’re treating Game 2 like on Tuesday?
“Game 2 is another Game 7 for us, the way we’ve gotta play,” Lowry said at practice Monday. “Everything we’re doing is a part of our journey to our end goal. And we all know what the end goal is. Every night, every game, Game 1 was just one step to our journey…That’s what we’re supposed to do on our home floor. Protect our home floor. Go out there and do our job, that’s it. We’ve gotta play every single game like a Game 7 to us no matter what.”
Even if this is a bit much as a rallying cry, the point is clear: The Raptors have stumbled in the playoffs in the past, and they think a sense or urgency is appropriate. They’ve also talked up the need to stay calm, play their game, and not get tightened up, and so this shouldn’t be taken as any sign of a shaken psyche or anything like that. Treating Game 1 like a Game 7 turned out just fine – the Raptors got out to a great start, didn’t tighten up when Washington made their counterpush, then eventually took over and won. Lowry was also phenomenal individually despite a modest stat line, too, and he was relieved to be able to watch the rest of the weekend’s action without being mad about a Game 1 loss for a change.
The Raptors having been in the opposite situation so often is part of why they’re preparing for a tough one Tuesday. They know what being down 0-1 can do to a team.
“Tomorrow night’s game is going to be one of the toughest we’ve played, just because of the fact we knew how we felt losing Game 1, how desperate we come out after Game 1, and they’re going to be no different,” Dwane Casey said. “They’re a talented team, well-coached team, they’re not your typical eight seed, and they’re going to come out breathing fire. And we’ve got to do the same. We’ve got to come in protect home, we’ve done it all year, and we’ve got to do it with a sense of urgency and a toughness it’s going to take to win Game 2, after going up 1-0. As we know, we haven’t been in this position very much, so we’ve just got to go back on how we felt in Game 2 after losing Game 1.”
Saturday’s win made them 1-1 in games that aren’t Game 7s that they have treated like Game 7s to go along with a 2-1 record in actual Game 7s during this core’s run. Compare that to 0-7 in Game 1s they don’t treat like Game 7s and 4-3 in Game 2s, and maybe they’re on to something here. Man, I forgot how long two days between playoff games is.
- I’ll be posting some updates/quotes/T-shirt news/etc regularly on my Instagram story throughout the playoffs.
- The Raptors are still accepting applications for the 2018-19 Wayne Embry Fellowship, if you wanted to apply and haven’t yet.
- Congratulations to Malachi Richardson, who joined the Raptors’ first-time fathers club last night. He, Fred VanVleet, and C.J. Miles all became fathers for the first time this season.
- Speaking of VanVleet, he’s officially listed as questionable for Game 2. He was able to go through most of practice and is still considered day-to-day. The Raptors are still going to skew cautious here given that it’s his shooting arm and the Wizards have a number of hard screen-setters he’d have to navigate around, but it’s encouraging that he’s inching closer.
- Lowry still sounds like hell but was feeling a bit better. The weather helps: “I’m good man. I was out tanning yesterday. I was out there tanning. I got a little darker. Y’all can’t tell but I look darker.”
- Lowry was asked if John Wall looks as fast as he was before his knee injury: “Did you watch? Yeah, yeah, no, still pretty fast. I used to be that fast…when I was like 10.”
- Casey was asked if Serge Ibaka is a good talker on defense. His response: “In what language?”
- Casey was also clear that some tweaks to the defensive approach are coming, though he wouldn’t tip his hand as to specifics. He seemed generally pleased with the type of mistakes the Raptors made in Game 1 – “hard mistakes,” as he calls them – but there were still too many.
- On top of interviewing for the Knicks job this week, Jerry Stackhouse will also interview with Charlotte and Orlando, per Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
- I think his interview card piling up was pretty easy to see coming, as Stackhouse has made about as good an impression as anyone could make over the last two years with Raptors 905. There’s an obvious Carolina connection with the Hornets, a Jeff Weltman connection with the Magic, and a heck of a personality fit in New York. Here’s hoping Stackhouse the best during the process – the Raptors would stand to suffer the loss, of course, but you want your people to have success and climb the ladder, and Stackhouse’s impact will still be felt with the team’s young players for some time.
- G League MVP Lorenzo Brown was named to the All G League First Team today.
- I wrote about Brown turning a heck of a G League season into a playoff roster spot over at The Athletic last week.
- One-time Raptors 905er Nigel Hayes was named to the All-Rookie Team.
- For Vice, I wrote about all the ways in which the “culture reset” was obvious in Game 1.