Coming into this series, one question surrounded the Raptors fan base: Do we have a chance? Prior to Game 1, my answer would have been that we have Kawhi, and the team with the best player in the series always has a chance.
With Kevin Durant’s injury holding him out until at least Monday, the Raptors have the opportunity to put the Warriors in a chokehold, going up 3-1, and begging the question; Do the defending champs have a chance? This turnaround from underdog to king of the hill would epitomize the Raptors season – the Raptors franchise, even.
In each series that the Raptors have played these playoffs, they have trailed at least once. 0-1 to Orlando, 1-2 to Philly, and 0-2 to Milwaukee. Barring another incredible performance from Steph Curry, a can’t-be-bothered type of shooting night from the hobbled Klay Thompson, and some pre-injury dominance from Demarcus Cousins, the Raptors will have a real chance to redefine team basketball – something that seemed to disappear after the Heat formed their super team, and subsequently the Warriors did the same. For too long, the champion of the league has been crowned before the season even started. Our team has the opportunity to make media think twice before predicting anything in sports. Daryl Morey was absolutely right with his 5% theory.
If you look up and down the rosters, we shouldn’t be the team leading 2-1. Where we have some veterans who were former all-stars, and who had their accomplishments years ago (aside from Kawhi Leonard and the ever-improving Siakam), the Warriors have 2 bonified superstars, 2 of the greatest shooters of all time, 2 consistent all-defensive players, and can run 11 guys deep on any given night. This is all without mentioning the former 40-20 beast in the middle, Demarcus Cousins.
Kids will look back on these teams in 20 years and wonder how the heck the Raptors beat… I don’t want to jinx anything. And the answer will be that they played team basketball. That they played the best team defense anyone had seen in a long time, and they had a ton of character: from management, to coaches, to players. Never too high, never too low.
In the words of Jack Armstrong, “It’s not about who’s got the 5 best, it’s about who’s got the best 5, and to me that’s a huge difference.” Right he is.
As you watch the game tonight, don’t underestimate what you’re witnessing. If the Raptors can pull through another W, it’s not only history for all of Canada, it’s history for professional sports. A lesson on how to live life. No matter the competition around you, or what people are saying about your chances, you’ve just gotta keep on working, and bet on yourself.