Who would’ve thought at the beginning of the season that the Toronto Raptors would be the first team in the league to clinch a play-off spot and earn that coveted “x” beside their team in the standings? With the nail-biting 121-119 OT win over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, the Raptors were able to secure a post-season berth just 64 games into the season.
Despite coming off a back-to-back and the slow start (being outscored in the first half 59-45), the Raptors were able to muscle through the gritty Pistons squad in the second half to force OT. There were so many moments in the game that made the victory that much better so how about we live through that glorious win once again, shall we?
Going without one of our bigs could have costed us the game…but it didn’t.
Serge Ibaka was ejected with 4:38 left in the second period for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. When watching the interaction between the referee and Serge, one can only assume that #mafuzzy may have complained about the shooting call one second too long. What was said was also not clear, but it should be noted that the ejection came when Serge was already walking back to the bench after CJ Miles had entered for him. The man is already removing himself from the situation, so why you gotta do that ref? We could’ve counted ourselves out considering the Pistons now have Blake Griffin but just like the rest of the season, it was the next man up.
WE HAVE FOUND NORMAN POWELL AND HE IS BACK.
Going into the game, many believed that Coach Casey was going with Malcolm Miller as the starter but to many, as a surprise, it was Mr. NP that got the call. In an article written by Sportsnet's Michael Grange, Norman Powell displayed the confidence in himself that has gotten him to where he is now.
“For me, it’s always been about hard work and continuing to fight through anything. It’s gonna turn around, and I don’t care what anybody thinks of me, anybody’s views of me. I know who I am as a person, I know what I put into this game. My teammates know, the coaches know, the organization knows, and [I’m going to] stick with that and just keep working.”
And that he did! Norman Powell finished the night playing 28 minutes, contributing 17 points, shooting 58% from the field (going 60% from the three) and grabbing 4 total rebounds. We were able to witness the Powell that this fan base fell in love with and the Powell that earned his contract at the beginning of the season. We can all now let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that the contract he signed wasn’t based on fluke performances.
Mr. I Am Toronto really did carry Toronto on his back last night.
If there’s one thing that anyone remembers from last night's game, it would be the brutal dunk DeMar DeRozan had with just 4.6 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Not only did he put Anthony Tolliver on a poster last night, but DeMar contributed 42 points in the Raptors’ OT win. DeMar also had 6 assists for the night with one notable dish in OT that would seal the win for the Raptors, which leads up to our next highlight…
BET ON YOURSELF
Fred VanVleet may have made one of the most important baskets in his short career with the Toronto Raptors last night. With the game tied at 119-119 and only 1.1 second left in OT, DeMar drives to the basket for what seems like a lay-up but then dishes the ball to the 20%-shooting-for-the-night Fred VanVleet for the shot. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING DEMAR?" was probably the question most people watching shouted at their televisions but despite an uncharacteristic poor shooting night from VanVleet, DeMar DeRozan once again proved his trust in his team. And it was in that moment that Fred’s ability to perform under pressure showed through as he sunk the deep 2 putting the Raptors up 121-119 which sealed the final score.
Northern Invasion was real last night
To top off the win and the play-off berth, the Raptors were able to have a piece of home with them while playing in Detroit. Through Coors Light, literal bus-loads of Raptor fans were able to make the 5-hour drive down to Motor City to support Canada’s team. It should be no surprise that there were times where the cheers and chants of Raptor fans was more audible than the Pistons’ fans. We’ve heard it before and even received praise from LeBron James, that Raptor fans have a special kind of energy through the play-offs but their presence in last night’s game once again proved the dedication this fan base has.
With all these accolades that are piling up for the Raptors, they continue to be watched under a microscope. All this group ever hears is that they’re a great regular-season team but what are they going to be like come play-offs? To that we say, why not enjoy this team as they are today? We are witnessing the greatest Raptors squad in franchise history which has been in the works for a long time now and so we as fans have earned the right to brag and bask in the victories of this team.
With all that said and done, the Raptors still have 18 games left before play-offs actually begin, with some heavy-hitter standing in their way. First up is the Houston Rockets whom they will face Friday night. The Rockets are playing out of their minds right now and when you have MVP-favorite James Harden on your team, it’s hard not to. Going into Friday’s game, the Raptors are facing a team that is averaging 42.4 3PA attempts per game, shooting 46.3% from the field and 36.7% from the three. Not only are they the offensive powerhouse that most teams in the league aspire to be but the Rockets are coming into the ACC with a 17-game winning streak, the longest winning streak in the NBA for this season. Are the Raptors up for the challenge to break this streak? We certainly believe so #NorthOverEverything.