Scott Stinson: Amid sudden outbreaks of basketball fever, Canada embraces a team from … Toronto? – National Post

Scott Stinson: Amid sudden outbreaks of basketball fever, Canada embraces a team from ... Toronto? - National Post
For jaded Toronto sports fans, the Raptors are making them believe in miracles again
Jack Armstrong returns with his thoughts on Game 1 of the NBA Finals about Pascal Siakams breakout, an assertive Marc Gasol, the returning DeMarcus Cousins and more.

1. PASCAL SIAKAM (Raptors):  Siakam was absolutely brilliant in Game 1 versus the Warriors, finishing his stellar finals debut with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists. It will be interesting to see how Golden State responds to guarding him going forward. Remember when Philadelphia switched Joel Embiid onto him in Game 2 of the East semis? They played way off of Siakam and dared him to shoot. He strikes me as a guy who keeps learning and improving. Thats positive growth. Siakam is maturing into a player who has positive counters to everything the opposition throws at him.    

In one of the games weirder moments, Drake was seen chatting with Curry during a timeout, and awkwardly appearing to pick lint off of him. Though it had the potential to become an embarrassing gif, Drizzy managed to turn it into lemonade, humorously noting that he was selling the lint on eBay. The punchline? He took another shot at Green, noting that his username was Draymondshouldntwear23, a reference to the number once belonging to the great Michael Jordan.

2. MARC GASOL (Raptors): The veteran centre was super assertive and confident in Game 1 with 20 points and seven rebounds. The Warriors played way off of him, choosing to give lots of help on Kawhi Leonard. If Gasol continues to produce like he did, it greatly opens up Torontos offensive options.    

The first thing that many took note of yesterday was that Drake was rocking a Dell Curry jersey. The subtle genius of the subtle trolling is that the way you interpret it changes based on your knowledge of the game. Curry, father of Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, played his final three seasons in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors.

3. TURNOVER MARGIN: Raptors win this category 16-10 and score 24 fast break points. When you play the Warriors youve got to keep them out if transition and make them play half court while taking advantage yourself of running chances before there Defence sets up. Its a big area to keep an eye on.

Drake is no stranger to heated exchanges with players — in fact he received a warning from the league after a war of words with Cleveland Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins during the 2018 playoffs. Last night, after a brief back and forth with Warriors forward Draymond Green, the rapper can be seen exclaiming that hes trash.

4. DEMARCUS COUSINS (Warriors): Warriors coach Steve Kerr is in a tough spot. Cousins is clearly just gradually working his way back into shape and a step slow catching up, which is completely understandable. The challenge is that this is the NBA Finals, where even eight minutes breaking a guy slowly back in could be a detriment to your team. Obviously hes a big-time talent. The decision for Golden State is how you balance reinserting him into the mix while maintaining what youve built.

5. WARRIORS SECOND-CHANCE POINTS: An area that the Raptors need to clean up is defensive rebounding and winning 50/50 balls. Toronto gave up 20 second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds in Game 1. This area improved as the game went on. Golden State is constantly and wisely looking for threes off of these scenarios because the defence isnt set and you get excellent looks.

At 1 a.m. on Friday morning, more than an hour after the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the National Basketball Association finals, the corner of Yonge and Dundas streets was still utter bedlam. Every driver that managed to pass through the crowds spilling off the sidewalk was leaning on the horn with abandon. Every vehicle with a sun roof had a waving flag or a raving fan sticking out of it. Every dude with a roaring motorbike or muscle car had converged on the citys central hub.

Bandwagon fans without any knowledge of the Virginia Sports Hall of Famer were simply left to marvel at the visible disrespect of the Warriors star players name on a Raptors jersey. However, it failed to knock Stephen Curry off his game, as he scored 34 points.

A pedicab driver led a chant of Lets go, Raptors. Firecrackers exploded right and left. An enormous man in an enormous SUV stopped, got out of his car and took a 360-degree video just to show his pals he was there. A mother with two girls in the back seat took the same kind of shot from her minivan. Two guys rushed into the middle of the intersection each time the lights changed and started jumping up and down as if on pogo sticks. Dozens joined them, forming a heaving mosh pit on asphalt.

Yes, Toronto is a little excited, all right. This buttoned-down, uptight, all-business burg has gone right off its head for the Raptors. After so many years of heartbreak and disappointment, the city is careful about giving its heart away to any sports team. The Leafs got us all in a lather, then fell flat once again. The Jays are rebuilding, which is what the rest of us call losing.

After the NBA channeled New Edition, telling the Toronto Raptors that their team ambassador—and hometown hero—Drake needs to cool it now with the sideline antics, it still appears Drizzy isnt about to hang up his troll hat just yet.

Like the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays, this current Raptors roster has the aura of champions, and the fans can feel it.

This one feels different. This one feels real. Any once-bitten, twice-shy reservations this town may have harboured about these heroes on stilts dissolved in one long, electrifying Game 7 moment when the ball went bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce – and in. After that, we were goners.

So the city was out-of-its-mind thrilled, but not really surprised when its team dominated the glittering stars of Golden State in the first game. Our guys just seem so solid. Their confidence is contagious. Suddenly, we have faith. Suddenly, we believe in miracles. And why not?

We have a stone-cold superstar who seems entirely immune to doubt. We have a laser-eyed, fast-passing, three-point-draining veteran who wiped the grin off his face after making the finals and told the world: We are not satisfied. We have a fleet-footed new father whose hands are on fire. We have not one, but three long-armed giants of the court, each a deadly threat in his own way. Oh, and we have the worlds best cheerleader, a trash-talking part-time massage therapist whose courtside theatrics are a whole separate spectator sport.

This team has the aura of champions. The aura of the Jays in the early nineties when they brought the World Series north of the border for the first time. The aura of those legendary Leafs who last brought the Stanley Cup to Toronto in (oh, God) the sixties.

Read more The two teams three-point percentages were near identical (Golden States 38.7% to Torontos 39.4%), as were the number of rebounds (38 to 36). The big difference came in turnovers. The Warriors had 10 turnovers in the first half alone, finishing the game with 17. Toronto finished with 10 total. In a game where the final scoring margin was less than double digits, it was the difference.

Of course, even the fiercest fan must admit that the dream might not come true. The other team is, um, pretty good. Its own sylph-like superstar can put a dagger through your heart before you even see it. Its other prolific killer could come back from his injury and join the battle. It is no accident that these guys have won the last two championships. They have a swagger of their own. One loss isnt likely to change that.

But if Game 1 showed anything, it is that our side is not intimidated. To succeed in sports, as in any endeavour, you need not just talent, but conviction. You need that inner voice that says: I can do it. The Raptors are hearing it loud and clear. If ever they have doubts, the fans are there to whisper it in their ears: You can do it.

They will still be confident they can win the series, with or without Kevin Durant. Siakam wont play like that again. Perhaps Danny Greens shooting slump returns. We will better engage on defense, theyll say – coach Steve Kerr bemoaned on ABCs broadcast the open shots the Warriors gifted early in the game because of late, lazy rotations, another example of the teams rust.

We are experiencing one of those rare moments when a team and its city form a bond, the players inspiring the fans with their artistry, the fans inspiring the players with their devotion. However this turns out, its a great feeling. Enjoy it, Toronto.

Leonard nursed an injury in the last round and was bound to be feeling some level of fatigue (do machines suffer from lactic acid?) heading into this series given his workload on both ends of the floor. The fact he didnt have to carry the offensive burden alone was a big plus. He was able to rest up on some possessions. The finals schedule itself will afford him extra rest.

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