If I were to ask you back in October, if you'd be happy seeing the Toronto Raptors take the Brooklyn Nets and their newly minted gigabillion dollar lineup to a Game 7 in the first round of the NBA playoffs, you probably would have said yes. At that time, the Nets were one of the favourites to dethrone the Miami Heat in the East, and the Raptors didn't look like a playoff team, let alone a top three seed.
Even though both teams have played to nearly a draw this series, and the Raptors are the less experienced group, a loss this afternoon will be hard to swallow. The Raptors were the higher seeded club, the bigger feel-good story league-wide, and had a 3 to 2 lead in the series going into Friday night's Game 6 match-up.
Unfortunately the Dinos couldn't close the deal, and now it all comes down to this, a one-shot deal, win or go home.
So should we as fans be happy, regardless of the outcome today?
Perhaps to a certain extent, but I'm going to leave that sentiment to be explored after the season has seen the last of its nine lives expire.
Right now the club shouldn't be happy.
They've come way too far in a season where they fought and clawed for every inch of that Atlantic Division crown, too far to now just fold up, happy to have put in a post-season appearance for the first time in six years. If that's really the case, then they've completely validated Brooklyn's late-season tanking strategy, and they might as well not play at all at 1 PM EST today.
That's the look the bulk of the team had in its eyes late in Game 5 and throughout Game 6.
"The playoffs were fun and we gave it a go but really, we can't beat this Brooklyn squad."
They can beat this Brooklyn Nets basketball club, and I'd argue in fact that they should each and almost ever time provided they play to their strengths. That means executing on offense, getting on the glass, defending three-point shooters, limiting turnovers...
...all things this team did en route to its division title, but unfortunately not things they've done particularly well over the last six quarters of this series.
Today represents their last chance this series to do them well, and really, that's what the outcome of today's match comes down to in my books. Do the Toronto Raptors play like the Toronto Raptors, or do they play like some other team thanks to the Nets' defence and the tone Brooklyn sets. It's what made the Nets so successful in Game 6, as the Raptors hardly looked like the team that moved the ball with ease, created second-chance opportunities off of rebounds and steals, en route to winning 48 games this season.
Today that team must re-emerge if they are to be victorious and that's the one key I'm leaving you with.
We've talked about specifics like pick-and-roll play, defending Joe Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas getting touches all series, but it's the sum that really matters as we see which team's true identity shines through this afternoon.
Is it the veteran Brooklyn Nets, who seem to have the momentum on their side?
Or is it this scrappy Raptors club that not only has us longtime fans standing out in the rain and cold outside the ACC, but has an entire nation suddenly chanting its name.
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