After last night, I think it’s clear this is not the same Toronto Raptors team I’ve been watching all my life. The team I grew up watching would’ve crumbled on a stage this big. They would’ve been intimidated by the Golden State Warriors. They would’ve looked out of place and dragged through the mud all over Twitter.
Not this team, though. Not this year.
The Toronto Raptors won Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Excusé moi? We did what?
The Raptors weren’t intimidated. They weren’t scared. Did they pass up some open shots? Yeah. But it wasn’t a glaring issue.
I was oddly calm and confident during the game. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that it didn’t hit me until half time that the Raptors were actually playing in the NBA Finals.
All of this hoopla doesn’t feel real.
It’s like I’m trying to teach my left hand that it’s capable of writing words, but my hand doesn’t want to believe it yet.
At no point during the game did I think the Raptors were in trouble. I was never worried about them coughing up the lead. I don’t know why I didn’t have those thoughts. I always have those thoughts.
As a Toronto sports fan, I am conditioned to look for red flags and sound the alarm. That didn’t happen last night.
The Warriors didn’t have Kevin Durant, and in my mind he’s not playing at all this series. However, they did have Curry, Klay, and Draymond. You can add Iguodala to that list.
Those are winners. The term “they know how to win” sounds ridiculous, right? Because everyone knows “how to win”. You score more points than your opponent, duh.
No. When you’ve won a championship before, you know exactly what it takes to do it. You know the mindset, the effort, the focus – you even know how to control the moment and make it work in your favour.
You can’t underestimate that.
The Raptors never win Game 1. The Warriors never lose Game 1.
And yet, I’m sitting on my couch watching this Raptors team cruise to a victory, in a pretty close game, and not worried about them blowing the lead.
What is wrong with me? Who am I? Do I need a system reboot?
Hello, my name is Paul 2.0. Can someone please help me through my start-up procedures? Be sure to select English when you get to the language part. Merci Beaucoup.
Seriously though, I’m not scared of the Warriors. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.
This series is far from over, I’m aware of that. But tonight’s win proved that the Raptors can beat this team. They needed this win. Losing home court advantage right out of the gate would’ve been deflating.
I’m not worried about Kawhi, even though the Warriors did a good job of containing him. He’s Kawhi Leonard. I don’t worry about superstars; they find a way, even if his leg is giving him problems.
Pascal Siakam had a big night and I’m happy for him, but this just means the Warriors will watch a lot of film and figure out how to stop him. Fortunately, without Durant, they don’t really have anyone with length who can disrupt him like Giannis did in the Bucks series.
Draymond Green is an elite defender, so maybe he figures out how to guard Siakam, but it won’t be with his smothering length.
Another reason I’m not scared of the Warriors is because of how much veteran leadership the Raptors have. This is a smart team. I’ll take a smart team over a skilled team any day of the week.
Granted, the Warriors are smart too. Dang it, can I just compliment the Raptors without forcing myself to say the Warriors hold the exact same attributes?
Both teams are great. There. Happy?
Bonjour, Je m’appelle Paul 3.0. Ou est le pamplemousse?
The playoffs are all about adjustments. In past years, it never felt like the Raptors adjusted after wins. They just came back with the same gameplan and were steamrolled because the other team figured out how to stop them.
All season, Head Coach Nick Nurse has been talking about how there are a million (or maybe he says thousands, I don’t recall) ways to win a basketball game and you just have to keep searching for the one that will work in the current game.
I love that. It forces you to be one step ahead. It forces you to change the question just as your opponent finds the answer.
The Raptors get OG Anunoby back for Game 2, which will be awesome because he’s had such a rough year, personally. I don’t know how much he’ll contribute after having not played in over a month, but his presence on the floor will be a welcome sight.
Last year, as a rookie, he was the one this team turned to to guard LeBron James. And he didn’t look scared at all. That says a lot.
I think the timing is right for this team. Everything has lead to this. The history of this organization has been put to bed.
All the former players that the fans booed out of the building whenever they returned, are now welcomed with cheers. We’ve grown to appreciate them.
As a fan base, we always wanted recognition from the US media. Hey, look at us! Hey, put us on national TV on Thursdays! Hey, stop giving us playoff games at noon! Hey, look at how good our team is! Hey, give us validation!
I don’t think we’re doing that anymore. Yeah, it’s still cool when they talk about us on PTI or Inside The NBA or even First Take, but now it’s more like, “Of course they’re talking about us” rather than, “Why won’t they acknowledge us?”
We’re no longer unsure of what we have. We know what we have. And what we have is a team that is three wins away from winning a championship and hosting a parade.
I’m aware this moment may be fleeting and the next four games could go the other way, but something is different. You can’t put it into words, you just feel it within.
Something is different.
Here’s hoping this different continues.
GAME 1: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 109, TORONTO RAPTORS 118