Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Raptors: The Key To Success

Another day, another loss, another opportunity missed, another jump shot missed another team getting more than a victory. The Raptors, more than any other team have undoubtedly been successful in one area this season, we are regrettably, the team that sets you straight. Lose to us and it's like a slap in the face, get your sh** together and bring it to your next opponent. Beat us, and give yourself more confidence, more belief, let yourself walk the walk and sleep soundly knowing you set a team that could have been, three steps back. The Hawks game to me was more than a loss for a few reasons, the seams on our team are breaking. It's hard to believe that two seasons ago, Sam Mitchell held high his award, largely due to his ability to build such chemistry so quickly and yet now we see distrusting eyes glare at each other, blaming each other for yet another opportunity squandered.

But as we point the figure on our side, on the other end of the court, a team celebrates. We see a team with renewed confidence, with a swagger, a victory despite key injuries, a team that is better than the sum of its parts, a team that will carry this momentum forward. Time and time again we have seen the Raptors squander a lead and as we shake our heads in disgust, eventually we move on, waiting for the next game with that faint hope that maybe today is the day. How many of us think about the other team, the effects of a stolen game from another teams eyes. Upon closer inspection, it's quite nauseating just to see how our beloved Raps have become the NBA band-aid quick solution for teams.

Of course it all began that faithful day when Vince C***** stepped onto the court. In a game where if we saw the box score, with Bosh and Bargnani combining for more than 60 points, we would immediately think victory, we allowed a comeback of the ages, a desperation three, an alleyoop winning dunk. What was the followup? Like an enraged bull, the Nets carried their momentum forward and charged charge up the standings with basically a two man team. And as their euphoria has worn off, we can now see the effects as they tumble down to reality and as quality teams expose their many weaknesses. It's really too bad we don't play the Nets again, they may need us to make their playoff run.

And then when all hope was lost, then came the rallying cry that called many Raptor fans back from the fence with a victory over our executioners last April, the Orlando Magic. Here we have a young team with undeniable size and talent, but perhaps lack the mental tenacity and focus to maintain top quality play over 82 games. I'm sure you remember reading prior to this atrocious season that nobody mentioned the Magic as contenders, nobody even saw them as elite. They were instead seen as a team on the border, a team who despite their talent and roster, lacked one thing, presence. But never fear, the Raptors are here. As the Magic suited up, I'm sure they saw this game as in the bag and were surprisingly, even to us fans, given a contest. We were able to keep the game competitive and even uncharacteristically gut out a victory! But again, what was the reaction. I seem to remember Stan the man saying something like "We just didn't have the energy." I don't know how the rest of you reacted but my first reaction was, wow, no energy and they still almost won. When the raps have no energy, we lose by 40. When we have some energy, we lose by 20. When we give it our all, we ....still lose. But this was definitely the slap in the face the Magic needed, and since then have rallied onto impressive victories. So impressive that they have by consensus, gained the watchful eye of critics and have joined the elite. I know Bosh and Howard are already great friends, but I'm sure Howard is thankful for having such a caring, giving friend.

And then of course, we have that dreaded back to back against the Celtics. When I first heard of these games coming up, I immediately thought, wow, this is exactly what the Celtics need. The Celtics, being recently tackled off their high horse were in disarray, questioning each other, their swagger, they had lost 4 games in a row, for the first time since this new big three joined forces. We probably could not have faced a mentally weaker Celtic team, but at the same time, we probably could not have faced a more determined Celtic team. I'm sure they recognized this as a golden moment to quench their thirst for victory and get back to their winning ways. Trust KG and company to recognize this opportunity and be able to turn it into not two victories, but five and counting.

You'd be all smiles as well knowing you get to play the Raptors twice.

To me, just seeing that schedule was the beginning of the end for what little confidence the Raptors had restored in themselves. Why? Because even though the game was competitive, you can't help but notice as we swapped two for three, a free throw for two, and a turnover for three, that at the end of the game, we felt good about almost winning. Since when was the standard of Raptor excellence and "feelgoodery" an almost victory. It's nice to say you learn from your mistakes, and can even build on losses, but do we learn? As Kapono travels once again for the billionth time in his career, did he learn? As Bosh hesitates too long again and gets shut down by Noah, does he learn? As Joey clears out space with his off arm and gets called out again, does he learn? To me, these things are ingrained in their muscle memory, we can't really learn, too much of basketball is about reacting and reflexes, the best have the patience and the IQ to think and react, but we are far from the best. To me only one thing is clear, the Raptors have learned one thing this season, how to give the other team what they need. How noble of them, how generous, how patriotic of the Raptors to embrace the Canadian friendliness and give so selflessly to the rest of the NBA. Here's hoping we get Marion. Say what you will about him wanting to be the man, asking for more attention, more lime light, at least at the end of the day, he's a taker.

2 comments:

  1. "It's really too bad we don't play the Nets again, they may need us to make their playoff run." Ouch. You're right, this team is coming apart every game more and more..

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  2. Man oh man. "Ouch" is the word.
    You really gave it up there to the raps.
    Great read.

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