What a dang relief. That’s all I could think as the Raptors eventually put it all together in the fourth quarter of Game 6 against the Wizards. Let’s give Washington some credit: John Wall was a terror all series, and when Bradley Beal was feeling it, he was dangerous too. (I’m also not sure if Mike Scott missed a shot all series.) All together, the Wizards gave Toronto a tough fight, and kudos to them — even though I’m beyond pleased to see them lose. Sorry, not sorry!
Now we can get to all of the post-game revelries, such as they are. As some around the Raptors noted: it’s just the first step of the journey. There’s more work to be done. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy in this moment.
So let’s get right to it. Here’s Fred VanVleet, who got back on the court and definitely made an impact:
In just under 19 minutes last night, FVV put up five points, four rebounds, and four assists. As Fred says, the scoring may take a bit of time (he shot only 1-for-5 from three in Game 6), but running the team, bringing the Raptors bench broskis together, is something he can do in his sleep.
And let me just say, watching VanVleet play once again with the Raptors has been, you guessed it, a dream. “I’m done watching,” said FVV. “It’s time to get out there and go to work.”
Next up, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the return of VanVleet: Pascal Siakam, who played a great Game 6, with a 11 points and eight rebounds.
“We just have a cool factor when he’s [Fred] is there,” said Siakam.
You really should watch the whole clip. It’s kind of touching to see Pascal acknowledge how the mojo of the bench unit really does come together when Fred is around.
For his part, Jakob Poeltl, he of the 7-and-7 performance, concurs:
“It definitely played a part in it there, there’s no question,” said Poeltl. “I think Fred’s the type of guy, he impacts the game in so many different ways. It’s not only, not everything is visible on the stat sheet. Like, he doesn’t have to score 15-20 points for us to make us better as a team. And I think he did that today.”
Jak, I also agree.
We go now to the leaders of the Raptors, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, working the podium as always.
DeRozan, of course, praises the bench, saying it really did change the series having them all together finally. As DeMar says, “they’ve been doing it all year.” And as Lowry went on to explain, the minutes load started to make a difference. Kyle praised Wall and Beal for playing as much as they did, for having to do as much as they did to keep the Wizards going. But as the game wore on, it was clear who the fresher players were — and it counted for Toronto.
It was also sweet to see the two of them bust each other’s chops one more time before the second round.
Finally, let’s just turn it over to coach Dwane Casey — who Lowry praised in the above clip, just FYI — and watch him smile. From me: you just gotta love it.
“We want to enjoy it, celebrate it until midnight, I told the guys,” said Casey. “You know, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. We still have some playoff series to go, hopefully. And we’ve gotta keep our mind on our business. And keep the main thing, the main thing.” Well said, and what a perfect Casey-ism.
We don’t yet know who the Raptors will be playing in the second round. In fact, this is the first time Toronto has had to wait for their opponent to come to them. The Cavaliers and Pacers play their Game 7 on Sunday at 1pm.
Presumably Game 1 of the next round will be on Tuesday, but we’ll see how it plays out. Will the Raptors get their third straight rematch with LeBron James, or will an upstart Indiana squad continue their barnstorming tour? Let’s watch.