The Raptors continued to play very concerning basketball and finally paid for it losing at home to the New York Knicks battling to just get into the playoffs. The Raptors with a win would have secured their second Division Title after first winning one in 2007. By the end of the night a Nets loss would give the Raptors their second Division Title.
People seem to be all caught up in the fact the Raptors have been winning but paying little attention to how they are winning and who they are actually beating. Instead dreaming some pretty unrealistic dreams of what this team could accomplish in the post season.
Look closer and you see the cracks in this team and the fact their defensive play which becomes vital come the post-season has been taking a dramatic decline. The Raptors despite winning the Division did slip to fourth in the conference and a match-up with the Nets in the first round.
This is De-Ja-Vu to the Raptors first division title when Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and crew faced the Raptors in the first round. In the end the Raptors were dismantled by the Nets and lost the series in 6 games with Jose Calderon committing a turnover to lose game 6.
Kidd now coaches the Nets and they call Brooklyn home and not New Jersey. They have battled back from a poor start to the season and have been playing some excellent basketball to even get in a race with Raptors for the Division Title. The most impressive thing on the Nets resume is a season sweep of the Miami Heat a team the Raptors have failed to beat ever since James and Bosh arrived in Miami.
Some fans are just satisfied with the Raptors unexpected success and are just happy to be back in the post season. So are the folks at MLSE who have rewarded fans with about a 6-7% hike of ticket prices for next season. They want your money long before Kyle Lowry has decided to stay or go as well.
As I have consistently said I am thrilled for DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson to get to experience the playoffs here in Toronto. They have earned that right going through some just terrible years to get here. I just don’t like their chances as the Raptors are far removed from playing their best basketball of the season.
The Raptors are labelling this playoff run “Northern Uprising” but the reality is more likely it will be just another disappointment unless some things change between now and the start of the playoffs. The Raptors have been trying to outscore people and not stop people of late. That is not the way the playoffs work.
It would not surprise me to see the Raptors fail to make it out of the first round. A match-up with the Nets would likely make that a reality. Even playing the Bobcats would not make me feel all that good given the Raptors failure to perform against this team over the years. The Wizards is the obvious match-up the Raptors would be a legit favourite in. John Wall in his first experience in post-season could be a tough task to deal with.
In the end this was an unexpected and great season for the Raptors compared to their lacklustre history. Still even if this team gets the most wins in franchise history which is very likely with only having to win two of their last 3 games against the Bucks, Pistons and Knicks. I still would not consider them the best Raptors team in history. Vince Carter’s 47 win team was better than this group. You can even argue Bosh’s group that won the other Division Title might be as well.
What the real story will be is what happens next season and can this team maintain and improve in an Eastern Conference and Division that will both most certainly improve around them. The Raptors I said back in January at best would get to the second round and nothing has changed my mind to think anything more than that.
I totally understand why long suffering fans just want to enjoy the moment and this return to the post-season. I just don’t see the Raptors as any real contender or threat and when they are that I will get excited. To me this is just something I have seen before and really doesn’t get me all that excited.
Miracles can happen I suppose but when you have never beat the team that will win the Eastern Conference since 2010 it is hard to imagine some magical run to the finals. Heck the way the Raptors are playing of late it is hard to imagine them surviving the first round.
Life is about timing and most of the time the Raptors timing has been terrible in their 19 year history. This just might be the latest example of it.
I leave you now to rose coloured glasses and dreams of grandeur about the post-season. While I get told for the millionth time this season what a negative person I am for being realistic and honest about my feelings and thoughts on this basketball team.
I will give this group this though they will go down swinging because that is something they have done all year. In the playoffs though given their play of late I am not all that optimistic that alone will be enough.