Last night the Toronto Raptors won a thrilling overtime game against the Pistons in Detroit, 121-119. The thrill lies not just in the fact they won, but the fashion in which they did it. Down by 14 pts at the half, the Raptors rallied in the 3rd quarter to take the lead, which swung back and forth for the rest of regulation play. The last 30 seconds of regulation play was more exciting than some entire games have been, punctuated with DeMar DeRozan going coast-to-coast for a two-handed dunk and foul, which appeared to be, at the time, the game winning play. Had the game ended on DeRozan’s spectacular play, it would have been the stuff of legend.
OH MY DEMAR DEROZAN!!! 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/I3fkiMKGtA
— NBA TV (@NBATV) 8 March 2018
Unfortunately Blake Griffin had other ideas, forcing the game into overtime with a last second basket. Overtime was something of a hot mess to put it mildly but again DeRozan’s full package of talent was on display drawing the defence to him and making the game winning assist to Fred VanVleet, showing pure ice in his veins, hitting the game winner.
— NBA (@NBA) 8 March 2018
If ever there was a year to be optimistic about the Raptors going the NBA Finals, this is the year. There’s a lot to be optimistic about! It’s the team’s first full year with Serge Ibaka on board; Coach Dwayne Casey has re-vamped to the team’s offence and gotten his star players to buy into a more ball moving philosophy. The team as a whole (especially DeRozan) have been shooting and making more threes.
However, the majority of that optimism, on my part, has a lot to do with how deep and good our bench has been this year! Many games won by the Raptors this year, were essentially won by our bench. It’s because of the great consistent play of the bench that’s allowed Coach Casey to dial down DeRozan and Lowry‘s minutes, making them, hopefully, fresher for the playoff grind.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron James) just don’t feel like the sure bet they have been for the last three seasons, despite overhauling their roster mid-season. Boston and Washington have somewhat inconsistent play hampered with injuries. Kyrie Irving hasn’t proved yet that he can carry a “LeBron-less” team to the promised land. Big picture; it’s never looked better for the Raptors to make it to the Finals. Most likely either the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors will be there, and hopefully battered and bruised from the death march that is the Western Conference.
(BTW, DeMar DeRozan is also taking the lead and opening up about mental health issues, as he sometimes deals with depression. His candor has given others the courage to speak about issues they are dealing with too. Salute DeMar!)