By David Arruda
The NBA eastern and western conference finals are set and for the first time in history it includes the Toronto Raptors. While Raptors fans attempt to celebrate, they also try push away the doubt that comes from the lethargic effort their team has put fourth thus far in the playoffs; now approaching the King, Lebron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It is no secret that the Raptors have not played well in their first two series. They struggled to beat a Pacers team that they were expected to trounce, limping out of a 7 game series, and again revealed their flaws against the Heat. Meanwhile the Cavaliers demonstrated why they are the favourites to represent the east in the finals. The Raptors have underachieved primarily due to the performance of their two all stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry has increased his atrocious shooting percentage from 31% to an abysmal 37% , while DeRozan is not fairing better shooting beyond 36%.
The conference finals may seem bleak for paleontologists residing in the North, but there are reasons to be positive. The Raps have faced their fare share of setbacks—primarily the ankle sprain that Jonas Valanciunas suffered and is likely to keep him from participating in the first two games against Cleveland. However, there has been positive reinforcement, specifically from replacing starting centre Bismack Biyombo, and Terrence Ross and Norman Powell off the bench. All three of these players have provided much needed energy and have been pivotal at various times in the playoffs. With the Cavs in sight each of these players, they will need to continue playing like they have if the Raps have any chance of winning.
However, besides these hopes noted above, the one thing that Raptors fans can take away from these playoffs is no matter how terribly they’ve made it—is the mere fact that they made it; scratching and clawing to franchise history. Prior to this season the Raps had never won a seven game series. Now, the Raps have won two seven game series, against while not matching the level of intensity they have brought during this 50-plus wins regular season. If you had to ask Raptors fans for anything this playoff, it would simply to win one series, and here they are surpassed of expectations in the conference finals.
Game one against the Cavaliers takes place Tuesday, May 17th, @8:30pm, in Ohio.