Tonight in downtown Toronto, horns honked, fans chanted, buses jumped on and firecrackers were set off. Enjoy it, Raptors fans.
They really did it.
Toronto isn’t supposed to be the city where the masses gather in the epicenter of the NBA. They never were. But this week, the spotlight will be right here when the Warriors visit the Raptors in the Finals. It’s something that doesn’t feel real to type, but is all of amazing, wonderful, and very real. The first non-LeBron team to make it to the Finals since 2010, these Raptors have their work cut out for them but somehow, does it really matter?
Tonight’s game wasn’t a party for 48 minutes like many had hoped. The Bucks stormed ahead with offensive glass domination, above-50% three-point shooting and no Raptor really stepping up to give Milwaukee the edge in the first half. Milwaukee came out playing harder than they had previously in the series, but the Raptors certainly never felt like they were out of it. Not with this defense, one that is proving to be world-class. The Raptors rotations are simply incredible to watch, especially against a drive-and-kick team like the Bucks. There are certainly teams with more offensive firepower than the Easter Conference Champion Raptors (!!!), but none come close defensively. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a grand total of one field goal in the fourth. When these Raptors clamp down on a star, they don’t do it half-assed. It’s not as if Giannis’ bunnies weren’t dropping, his life was being made incredibly difficult and his limited skillset could only take a few dribbles before passing it out on seemingly every drive. Kawhi Leonard is very good at basketball.
The scenes around the Scotiabank Centre were incredible. Each person recieving the Eastern Conference Trophy had their own redemption story. Kawhi after his year off, Kyle after his incredible dedication to the franchise, and much, much more. A key headline of this series win is Nick Nurse, who will now coach in the Finals as only a rookie coach (he has entered the Ty Lue pantheon). Nurse was incredible this series, and it’s all the more incredible that many believe Mike Budenholzer was actually the Raptors’ first choice. Nurse didn’t get flustered when down in the series, but rather stuck to his guns in some areas and changed in others. Believing in Fred VanVleet? Check, they don’t win the series without him. Kawhi on Giannis? Check, the MVP looked like Ben Simmons at times out there. Nurse deserves a lot of credit. He did something Dwane Casey couldn’t do, which was beat the Bucks this year (I’m sorry but it’s funny).
Diehard Raptors fans are a tight-knit community. Because there were so few of us early on, given the quality of the rosters and the secondary nature of the sport in Canada, this accomplishment feels like the world and more. It’s simply amazing, really. You know what else it is? 4:16 AM right now. What a night.
They really did it.