Raptors Cage

Why Game 1 against Washington is a must-win

The playoffs are finally here and we have ourselves a first round date with the Washington Wizards. It didn’t seem likely that the Wizards would fall to the eight seed but losing nine of their last twelve games certainly helped. The regular season series between these two teams were split at two games a piece, however one caveat to that is we haven’t played a game this season against their superstar guard, John wall.

When game 1 tips off Saturday evening in the ACC, the Toronto Raptors will begin their most important playoff run in franchise history.

But, before we get carried away about how we’ve surpassed all expectations placed on the Raptors this season, let’s talk about one expectation that we have yet to conquer. Can the Toronto Raptors finally win a game 1? You may have heard that the Raptors are really, really bad at game 1’s. So bad, that we’ve lost 10 straight and the last time we won was 2001 when Vince Carter was the face of our franchise. On behalf of all Torontonians, I am begging for you guys to save us the stress and time of reading the dramatic headlines of whether or not we can make it out of the first round.

Winning on Saturday isn’t only about changing the narrative of our game 1 struggles, it’s about the complete “culture reset” that Masai Ujiri talked about last summer. After a postseason run that ended in a disappointing sweep against the Cavaliers, Masai Ujiri and Dwayne Casey took their time to give the Raptors a facelift, or in other words, a new identity. They weren’t lying about that.

At the beginning of the season, nobody predicted the Raptors to be where they are now at 59-21. In fact, ESPN had Toronto winning 43.5 games (they were a little bit off). Last season they faced heavy criticism over their isolation focused offense that ranked dead last in assists.  This season they finished sixth averaging 24.3 a game. They also managed to add depth that has them campaigning for their entire “bench mob” to win the 6th man of the year award.

“These aren’t the old Raptors”, as we say every year. But yet, at the end of every postseason run, we have a bitter taste in our mouth. Whether it’s losing to Paul Pierce and the Brooklyn nets in game 7, getting swept by the Wizards or falling to Lebron James and his Cavaliers, we’re always left wondering, what went wrong? Why didn’t this formula work?

Following the Raptors these past few seasons has been infuriating, exciting and stressful. We’ve reached new heights, set franchise bests and every single player in the rotation can have a huge impact in a game.

I mean, c’mon we’re the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, we have the formula this time, right?

On Saturday, when the clock hits triple zero’s and the game is over, for our sake and most importantly the players on the team, please have more points than the Wizards. With all the success we’ve had this season, if go down 0-1 in the series, it will be so demoralizing for the fans who bought into these new Raptors, and for the players that worked so hard to change the narrative of the team up North.

Game 1 isn’t a must win for the sole reason that it determines who will win the series. It’s a must win for the psyche of Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry.  It’s a must win because Masai Ujiri promised a culture reset. It’s a must win for the fans who want to confidently say that we didn’t get here by luck.

These aren’t the old Raptors, and on Saturday they plan to show you that.

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