TORONTO — It appears ridiculous to have the primary sport in a best-of-seven really feel collection like a must-win sport.
And but, right here we’re.
The Toronto Raptors have a factor about Recreation 1s. You’re most likely conversant in the story: they’re 1-12 in franchise historical past within the first sport of a playoff collection, having final gained one in all them when Jean Chretien was Prime Minister. Six of these losses have come at residence, in opposition to lower-seeded groups.
And so, Kyle Lowry, requested on Friday afternoon concerning the significance of Recreation 1 in opposition to Washington, stated this: “Our Recreation 1 is our Recreation 7 tomorrow, to be sincere. That’s simply how we’ve gotta do it.”
The Raptors definitely know that it’s going to not be an elimination sport on Saturday night; they’ve three collection wins within the final two seasons regardless of the Recreation 1 struggles. However Lowry shouldn’t be improper to really feel like they want this one. On this season of their evolution, once they had everybody pondering that this crew had reached a brand new aircraft of existence, after which had everybody rethink that once they had been smacked within the nuggets by the Cavaliers twice in latest weeks, a win in Recreation 1 in opposition to the Wizards would go a ways to convincing followers, opponents — and themselves — that these should not, the truth is, the identical outdated Raptors.
Lowry stated his crew is free and assured now, and he stated they’ve been uptight in collection openers in latest seasons. The losses solely exacerbated that feeling.
“I imply, we’ve misplaced quite a lot of Recreation 1s,” Lowry stated.
Fairly why they’ve accomplished that is still one thing of a thriller. Lowry prompt they haven’t performed exhausting sufficient, however coach Dwane Casey waved away any thought that effort might need been partly accountable.
“I don’t suppose guys go on the market and never play exhausting,” he stated, suggesting that maybe different groups see the losses and are available with additional confidence. “It’s bought to be psychological greater than something. However it’s not effort.”
The coach additionally stated one thing that was fairly on-the-nose: “It’s a phenomenon.”
A kind of issues, that’s, for which there’s not a transparent reply. How bizarre is the Raptors’ streak? Over the past two seasons, NBA groups not primarily based in Toronto have a file of 23-Four on residence courtroom within the first sport of a playoff collection. The Raptors are 0-Three in that scenario over the identical interval. This isn’t hockey, the place scoring chances are high restricted and a sizzling goalie can flip an final result all by himself. Basketball is rather more predictable, and good groups win at residence within the postseason far as a rule.
Until it’s a Recreation 1 in Toronto. There may be one factor to the shedding streak, although, that isn’t all that mysterious: poor taking pictures. Over the previous two seasons, when the Recreation 1 struggles had been significantly acute because the crew may not blame youth or playoff inexperience, the Raptors have shot of their openers like they had been aiming at a ball-sized hoop. In two of these 5 video games they shot below 40 per cent from the sphere, and in 4 of them they hit fewer than 25 per cent of their photographs from three-point vary. (And in three of them, lower than 22 per cent from distance — extra clanging than a city crier conference.)
Lowry, particularly, has been dreadful from past the arc in these video games, particularly since he’s been near a 40 per cent shooter from that vary in latest seasons. Over collection openers in opposition to Indiana, Miami, Cleveland and Milwaukee, Lowry was a mixed 2 for 27 on three-pointers till lastly managing to be 2 for Four from distance within the second spherical in opposition to Cleveland final 12 months. This may very well be why he desires to method Saturday’s sport in opposition to the Wizards with a sure urgency.
“If that’s what it takes to get himself moving into Recreation 1, that’s effective,” Casey stated. He famous that when photographs haven’t fallen in a few of these video games, the offensive issues carry over to the defensive finish. That approach lies unhealthy losses. However the coach additionally stated that this new-look Raptors offence, if one can nonetheless take into account it new in Recreation 83, was designed at the very least partly to search out scoring elsewhere if the crew’s two All-Stars can not make baskets.
“That’s the plan — that that’s going to deal with a number of the woes we’ve had in Recreation 1,” Casey stated.
It’s an ungainly factor for the coach. He is aware of the historical past, he is aware of how all the identical questions can be requested of his crew in the event that they find yourself laying one other egg. However he additionally doesn’t need to overdo it, to wind everybody up a lot that they’re tense and freaked out once more. Maybe they might all take a web page from C.J. Miles, who got here to Toronto within the low season and was apparently blissfully unaware of the Raptors’ Recreation 1 horrors. “No thought,” he stated. “I hadn’t even considered it. I didn’t realize it was a factor till simply now.” Perhaps let him take the primary few photographs.
Casey stated, fairly, that this has been a season of firsts. That they had by no means gained 59 video games in a season or 34 at residence, and have now accomplished each. They used to battle like all hell in opposition to Chicago and Charlotte and had been 8-Zero in opposition to them this season. And now right here is one other dragon to be slayed.
“I’ve all the religion on the earth we’re going to come back out and be the same crew we’ve been within the common season,” Casey stated. “That’s the belief we’ve got in our gamers and we gotta have, not wanting on the historical past.”
However till they get that win, that historical past can be there.
Current Raptors Recreation 1s
2016, First Spherical
Indiana 100 Toronto 90
The Raptors blow a two-point halftime lead, Paul George scores 33, and DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are a mixed 1 for 10 from three-point vary.
2016, Second Spherical
Miami 102 Toronto 96
The Raptors blow a two-point halftime lead, however ship the sport to extra time on a late bomb from Kyle Lowry, who had missed his first six three-pointers. Toronto loses in extra time anyway.
2016, Third Spherical
Cleveland 115 Toronto 84
The Raptors cling round till the second quarter, when Cleveland outscores them 33-16 on the way in which to a 22-point halftime lead, and that’s just about that. Kyle Lowry is 0-for-7 from three-point vary.
2017, First Spherical
Milwaukee 97 Toronto 83
The Bucks get 28 factors and a severe fright from Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Raptors get horrible taking pictures from DeMar DeRozan (7 for 21) and Kyle Lowry (2 for 11). Toronto’s two All-Stars missed all eight of their mixed three-point makes an attempt.
2017, Second Spherical
Cleveland 116 Toronto 105
As has turn out to be customized, the Cavaliers blow Toronto out of Quicken Loans area, scoring 62 factors within the first half. LeBron James, on the way in which to 35 factors, pretends to take a swig of beer from a courtside vendor in the course of the sport. Metaphor alert.
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