Sunday, January 17, 2010
Raptors Avoid Disaster; Get Ready For National TV
After a convincing blowout against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors can finally exhale. Whew. That was a close call.
The potential nightmare began with the Raps giving up a 23 point lead, only to tragically fall to the Indiana Pacers. In the eyes of many fans, that game was a must win, especially considering Toronto had recently resurfaced from underneath the .500 mark. For the 3 day break that followed, the team had plenty of time to digest and break down exactly where they were in the grand scheme of things. The Raptors had played their best ball of the season, determined to scratch, fight, and claw their way back to respectability. The .500 mark was the goal. And as quickly as they had reached it, it slipped away.
With an equally surging New York team on the horizon, and then two games against NBA elites (Mavs and Cavs) after that, the Raptors knew they could have potentially dropped back to 4 games under .500. After all the hard work it had taken to get where they were, such a scenario would have proven to be that proverbial dagger in the Raptors' hearts.
But with the pressure on, the team arrived into New York and took care of business. Led by the inspired play of Andrea Bargnani, the Raps broke even with their record. And then of course there was the spectacular performance against the Dallas Mavericks. Even with the second best record in the West, Disco Dirk and company were unable to drop the Raps back under .500.
And so here we are today. Disaster averted. Instead of being several games below .500, the Raptors now confidently prepare for their date with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This won't be any regular meet and greet either. The Cavs likely remember the game they lost to Toronto at the beginning of the season and will look to even the series on national television. No stranger to the spotlight, LeBron James has gotten his Cavaliers playing at an incredibly higher level than when they last met the Raps.
For James, this is nothing but a regularity, the concept of playing in front of the entire country of America. But for the Raps, this is a relatively foreign territory. The Raptors have had only one nationally televised game, and that was against the hot San Antonio Spurs; a meeting they made the most out of.
This Tuesday, on NBA TV, the Raptors will have yet another opportunity to make ground in the standings. If there's anytime to prove that they have finally turned the corner, it will be then. Many eyes will be watching, but it will be the noise they make if they win that will matter the most.