Here's what's at stake for the Raptors in tonight's Game 7 (which starts in 30 minutes by the way, but you knew that already because your heart beats fast and your palms are sweaty and... OK, let's not get carried away here).
If the Raptors lose:
- Dwane Casey is 100 percent gone if this happens. Nice guy, solid coach, but no way can the franchise sell another year of Casey to the fanbase after three straight first round defeats (as the higher seed!) Personally, I like Casey, and it will be a bummer to see him go, but the Raptors will have no choice.
- Chatter surrounding a DeMar DeRozan departure reaches a fever pitch. As it stands, there are already people talking about DeRozan's inevitable flight to another team. A loss here, again in the first round, after playing so poorly and getting outplayed so thoroughly, would not be great for DeRozan's reputation. My money is still on him getting re-signed, but as for him staying afterwards...
- The percentage chance of Kyle Lowry staying beyond next season shrinks to almost zero. He'll be a 31 year old point guard who has played poorly and/or broken down in each of his last three seasons. You can definitely win basketball games with Lowry flying around the court, but it doesn't seem logical to start tossing huge money contracts at him after 2017.
- Terrence Ross probably gets traded. Look, I'm not saying Norman Powell is the absolute guaranteed future; the Raptors still need Ross' sometimes unconscious shooting. But for most of this series, Ross has looked like he's been playing in the clouds, while Powell is ploughing ahead on Earth.
- The Raptors fan base sinks emotionally to a new low. This really cannot be overstated. Last year felt terrible, but it was a wakeup call, so in retrospect it ended up being necessary. Two years ago, low expectations (as with 2008). Back in 2007? It sucked, but it felt like the start of something. Likewise 2001, where the Raptors had a 50-50 shot and looked poised to do something special. And 2002 was a welcome surprise (one we can even laugh about today; thanks Chris Childs!) But a loss here, today, would toss the entire city into emotional disarray. Families torn asunder, brother versus brother, people crying in the streets. It really just shouldn't happen, which brings us to the next section.
If the Raptors win:
- Think of every positive adjective out there and multiply it by ten. Yes, the Raptors should not be in this situation, they should have easily dispatched this Pacers team. We know this. And now, after all this shakiness, a second round matchup with the Miami Heat (featuring our old friend Joe Johnson, no less) should not exactly make us feel good. But no bother! Drink deep of this victory. Few teams get to this point and we really, truly, and historically speaking, have no idea when it will happen again.
Now, here's your preview from Dan Grant. Settle in and try to get comfortable. Game 7 in 30 minutes.