NBA: The Raptors’ Resurgence

ibaka
(RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR)

By: Rossy Pasternak

The Toronto Raptors began the home stretch of the season with a big win over conference and division rivals, the Boston Celtics. Playing down an all-star in Kyle Lowry, the Raptors used their newly acquired depth to secure the victory. The new additions, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, were huge defensively down the stretch, and superstar DeMar DeRozan warranted ‘MVP’ chants towards the end of the night.

In the first quarter, Serge Ibaka (IBLOCKA) came out of nowhere to block an Isaiah Thomas layup attempt. Channeling his inner Bismack Biyombo, the former Toronto fan favourite and a teammate of Ibaka’s in Orlando, Serge raised his hands to the Toronto crowd following the block. When Ibaka raised his hands, and in the fourth quarter when Tucker made a couple key defensive stops, the ACC felt re-energized. My friend, who was at the game, described the atmosphere during these moments to have been, “One of the best regular season games I have ever been to.” The Raptors, coming off debatebly their worst stretch of games since their 2015 playoff sweep at the hands of the Wizards, had been losing confidence from their fanbase. With two trades, and one win, the Raptors and their fanbase have been injected with new life.

I remember just a couple of summers ago, the moment I found out Troy Tulowitzki was going to be a Blue Jay. I was just about to go to bed, it was 1 o’clock in the morning and I had just gotten home from a night out with friends. Upon reading Ken Rosenthal’s tweet, I immediately called my brother and screamed for an hour with him about how happy we were. My next action was buying tickets to Tulo’s first game as a Blue Jay. I remember that game as if it was yesterday. My friend Ryan and I were sitting in the 100’s in left field, what we like to call the Splashzone because of all the home-runs that end up there. I remember when Tulo drove a ball deep towards us, over our heads and into the second deck. When that ball came off of his bat, it felt as if Toronto sports had taken off, exiting the abyss of hell and climbing towards the peak of Mount Everest.

Come to think of it, the similarities between these two Toronto teams run even deeper. Both teams had GMs who excelled at pulling off big trades, and who weren’t afraid to make a big move to make their team better. Both the departed Alex Anthopolous and Masai Ujiri are legends in Toronto because of their deadline moves. During a time when Toronto fans were starting to question the commitment to winning by ownership, when some wondered if they were prioritizing profit, these two proved otherwise. Anthopolous and Ujiri, the Raptors and the Blue Jays, have restored faith in Toronto sports organizations. The fans have gotten a taste of what it is like to be a contender, and now they are thirsting for more.

Watching Ibaka block Thomas’ shot, and watching both he and Tucker have such an extraordinary impact towards the end of the game, I had the same feeling I had when I was at Tulo’s first game. The Air Canada Centre was rocking, and once again, Toronto fans had hope.

The Troy Tulowitzki and David Price trades rejuvenated a franchise, and allowed the Blue Jays to reach heights that were a distant memory to most. This Raptors team has already been where no other has gone Рimagine how much further they are capable of going.

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