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Raptors one win away from first-ever championship after beating Warriors 105-92

The pockets of traveling Toronto Raptors fans in Oakland assembled in one big deliriously happy group after the final buzzer Friday night. They sang their hearts out and marveled at what they just witnessed.

Their Toronto Raptors are flying home from California with a chance to finish off the dynastic Golden State Warriors and win their first-ever NBA Championship in the team’s 24-year history in Toronto on Monday night.

Headlined by a 36-point night from their superstar Kawhi Leonard, and 20 points from Serge Ibaka in his best performance of the playoffs, the Raptors won Game 4, 105-92. They handed the back-to-back champs their second straight loss in Oakland.

Canada’s only NBA squad takes a 3-1 series lead back across the border, where the nation is gripped by Raptors fever.

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Pascal Siakam added 19 points for Toronto Friday, while Kyle Lowry added 10 along with seven assists.

The Raps left the floor stone-faced despite being one win away from becoming champs and making franchise history.

“We didn’t do nothing yet,” was Lowry’s reaction.

A matter-of-fact Leonard wouldn’t let himself be drawn into the slightest talk about what an NBA Championship could mean to Canadians.

“I’m really not sure,” said Leonard. “You got to ask probably a fan or somebody that’s in Canada, or been living in Canada for a while.”

Two days after allowing Stephen Curry a career playoff-high 47 points, the Raps held the Warriors star to 27 on Friday night. Klay Thompson had 28, while Draymond Green and Kevin Looney each scored 10.

We the North: The Toronto Raptors playoff success represents a shift in Canadian identity

If you’re not a basketball fan right now, you’re missing out. For the first time since they were founded in 1995, the Toronto Raptors have advanced to the National Basketball Association final and excitement for the game in Canada has never been higher.

This outcome was very much the vision of John Bitove, one of the founders of the Toronto Raptors, who said the ultimate goal of the organization would be to win an NBA championship. But more than that, Wholesale nba jerseys
it would be to recognize basketball as a major national sport in Canada.

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Hockey has traditionally been seen by most people — both inside and outside of the country — as the sport that most defines Canada. Fans have often been sold the idea that hockey players are what a Canadian is or ought to be. For many fans, national pride is attached to this descriptor.

The historical and cultural significance of hockey means it will always be a Canadian sport. But because of the changing demographics of the Canadian population, anecdotal evidence suggests some fans are starting to seek national identity through basketball. A few reasons underpin this new identification.

Inferiority, Ujiri and Drake: Inside the Minds of Toronto Raptors Fans

Throughout these NBA playoffs, Kawhi Leonard has done the improbable over and over again, helping to carry the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Finals appearance. He hit the game-clinching three over Joel Embiid in Game 4 of the second-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, which was followed by a series-clinching buzzer-beater in front of the home crowd in Game 7.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, with Toronto trailing 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Leonard took on the defensive assignment against Giannis Antetokounmpo and was the best two-way player on the floor for the next four games.

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The Raptors won all four, and after Thursday’s Game 1 victory in the NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors, they are now three victories away from the championship.
The on-court accomplishments have been remarkable—one of the greatest individual postseason runs in years—but Leonard’s most improbable task might be this: He might have single-handedly changed a cynical Raptors fanbase into a group that is willing to believe in anything. It was especially cheap nba jerseys from china
evident Thursday, with a home crowd that was not only confidently cheering on their team from tip-off but were persistent with their energy throughout the evening. The Raptors are in the Finals for the first time in NBA franchise history, and it appears they may be ready to turn the page permanently and leave all their insecurities behind.

Arguably no NBA fanbase has a greater inferiority complex than that of the Raptors. I grew up in Toronto and have followed the Raptors for their entire 24 years of existence. The feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop whenever things go well is the defining characteristic of rooting for the team. From Tracy McGrady leaving in free agency for Orlando, Vince Carter demanding a trade to New Jersey, high draft picks like Andrea Bargnani not panning out and the repeated failures of the Dwane Casey-Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan Raptors in the playoffs, there’s a rich history of disappointment from following the franchise which has made this feeling permeate among the fanbase.

WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES TO WIN THE NBA TITLE THIS YEAR?

The NBA season is hotting up in the wake of the All Star Game, and several teams have started to outline themselves as prime candidates to win it all come the summer.

At the top of the tree at this stage are the Milwaukee Bucks, and what a great story this is. A small-town team doing big things, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the star of the show. The “Greek Freak” is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the NBA, and his offensive and defensive exploits are a big part of his side’s position at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe have stepped up from role players to key components of an exciting team, and the Bucks could be dangerous when the playoffs come around.

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Breathing down their necks in the East, the Toronto Raptors are once again sitting at the business end of the standings. Kawhi Leonard is running the scene north of the border in his first season away from the San Antonio Spurs, and is being ably supported by big men Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam,Wholesale nba jerseys
in addition to the grizzled Kyle Lowry. An explosive offense, the Raptors have also built their success this year off the back of their offensive rebounding – expect opposing coaches to crash those boards if they meet them in the playoffs!

The Raptors are certainly a team to watch this season as they look so dynamic on offense. If you’re wondering how to bet on NBA games, which can be quite complicated if you don’t understand the spread, this article is a great resource as it explains everything you need to know in a way which is very easy to understand.

Heading over to the Western Conference now, the Denver Nuggets have established themselves as one of the teams to watch this season. A drastic turn around in fortunes has seen this team transition from cellar dwellers to contenders in just a few seasons, and the squad will be itching to make the playoffs after narrowly missing out last year. Spearheaded by their young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris, it seems as though this team will be around for some time.

Toronto Raptors: Grades in tight win over Mavericks

The Toronto Raptors closed out their 3-game road trip with a 123-120 win. The Dallas Mavericks were tough, but the Raps’ deep shooting proved too much.
After a pair of disappointing losses, the Toronto Raptors were in danger of slipping into a slump. With the Eastern Conference being so tight at the top, losing their third straight game would be trouble.
The Dallas Mavericks have pushed themselves into long-shot playoff contention in large part because of the remarkable rookie season of Luka Doncic. He was better than advertised, racking up a triple-double of 35 points, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds. For a chunk of the second half, his efforts looked like they would be sufficient. Happily for Toronto fans, their team’s often shaky three-point shooting was on target, and a strong fourth quarter produced a 123-120 victory.

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The Raptors have struggled early in recent games, allowing their opponents to build up what prove to be insurmountable leads. That wasn’t the case in Dallas, as the Raptors came out hot. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry established their presence early, splitting 23 first-quarter points.

Neither slowed down much in the second, and Toronto wound up with a 70-point half and 12-point lead. The Raptors were a sizzling 11 of 20 from beyond the arc, with seven players making at least one long ball.

The bubble burst in the third quarter. The Raptors were as cold as a polar vortex, needing almost five minutes to record their first basket. Dallas was happy to take advantage, and grabbed a three-point lead. That stretched to as much as seven early in fourth quarter, before a Norman Powell long ball began the comeback.

Raptors can dream about Anthony Davis, but it’s just that

That doesn’t preclude the Raptors from trying. Kawhi Leonard wasn’t too interested in coming, either, and he presumably spent part of Monday trying to avoid vanishing in a snowstorm. The Raptors would have to offer up their best young assets to even have a chance to sit at the table, so a theoretical package would have to start with Pascal Siakam and possibly OG Anunoby (who is highly valued within the franchise, but has been unable to replicate Siakam’s leap this season), and presumably Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas.

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Add a distant first-rounder, maybe two. There was no indication any offer was in Toronto’s plans Monday, though in Platonic circumstances it would be a no-brainer. Pairing Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard plus shooters would mean immediate contention. Toronto would truly be all in. And that’s your best offer.

The real question is, the best deal for whom? Davis switched to Paul and Klutch Sports last September, and Paul’s statement to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski read, “Anthony Wholesale nba jerseys
wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.” Which, strictly applied, rules out the Knicks.

The Pelicans released a statement that said they would do the best thing for the Pelicans, and asked the NBA “to strictly enforce the tampering rules associated with this transaction.” The NBA, which as a league is a tampering traffic cop on a tampering F1 course, is already looking into whether Davis would be fined a small amount for demanding a trade.

Poor New Orleans. LeBron’s patience with the Lakers has always seemed like one of those old Hollywood Western sets where the general store and the saloon are just painted plywood held up with two by fours. Paul is said to be sensitive to the idea that he might steer his megastar client to his megastar buddy. Perish the thought.

Well, except … huh. New Orleans should hold out for the best deal, and Boston can theoretically offer the best deal, but not now. They have purloined first-rounders and a deep well of young talent, from Jayson Tatum on down. Due to a quirk in the collective bargaining agreement involving Kyrie Irving’s contract, Boston can’t trade for Davis before July 1. But the Celtics have the best goods, if they are willing to offer them.

Which … hey, so why did Davis and Klutch Sports go public now? Yahoo’s Chris Hayes reported that Boston was not a priority for Davis because, “There’s a growing belief of uncertainty that Kyrie Irving will not re-sign with Boston.” Ah. But that could probably be figured out if the Pelicans wait until the window to sign Irving opens up on July 1, right? Unless you wanted New Orleans to move Davis somewhere else now, or something.

No, most people believe LeBron is pulling levers and strings, even as his injury absence has exposed some of the holes in the younger Laker players. The Los Angeles Times reported that any deal would have to start with … eh, some of the entirely disposable parts that currently populate the Lakers roster, it doesn’t matter. It’s possible the Pelicans front office is panicky and not up to the tricky task of disposing of a superstar and getting real value back. Precisely nobody in the league will be surprised if Davis winds up a Laker.

Why Raptors are doubtful to trade for Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is on the market, so cue the procession of teams that will rush to try to acquire the 25-year-old superstar, be it ahead of the Feb. 7th trade deadline or this coming summer.

The New Orleans Pelicans big man has long been atop the list of dream targets and the writing has been on the wall for a potential Davis trade for quite some time.

The Pelicans have failed to put together a winning roster around Davis. The University of Kentucky product can opt out of his contract after next season, so New Orleans would Cheap Toronto Raptors jerseys be wise to sever ties with the five-time all-star before his current deal is through, lest risk watching one of the most talented forwards the NBA has ever seen bolt in free agency.

The Davis trade story progressed significantly on Monday morning after his agent, Rich Paul, stated that Davis has notified the Pelicans that he does not plan to re-sign with the club once his contract is up and that he has officially requested a trade.

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There is a long line of teams that will be vying for Davis’s services, whether they are contenders seeking to seriously bolster their lineup, or teams with the right package of assets to pull the trigger and begin re-building their team around ‘The Brow.’

Fans of nearly every fan base will ask themselves today: Does my team have a shot?

If you follow the Toronto Raptors, that question holds major implications on several fronts. Acquiring Davis would not only cement the Raptors’ status as the team to beat in the East, but could even make them favourites to win it all. That’s how good Davis — who is averaging nearly 30 points and 13.3 rebounds per game this season — is.

But do the Raptors really have a shot at landing him? Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

To say there’ll be competition for Davis’s services is an understatement. A generational talent, Davis would dramatically alter the hopes of whichever team eventually trades for him, and clubs will be willing to empty the war chest to make it happen — particularly if they feel they can sign him to an extension next summer.

The fact is, the Raptors don’t have the assets to match other teams.

Aside from Kawhi Leonard — and even then his expiring contract hurts his market value — Toronto’s most valuable trade chip is Pascal Siakam, the 24-year-old Most Improved Player candidate and potential all-star who is on his rookie-scale contract for one more season before becoming a restricted free agent. The ability to have him under team control for the near future is naturally appealing, to say nothing of his sky-high potential.

But it is going to take a lot more to land a player of Davis’s calibre. Any package is believed to have to include a combination of prospects and draft picks. But beyond Siakam, the Raptors don’t really have players to include in a deal that will dramatically move the needle for New Orleans.

Delon Wright is one player whose name will come up in trade talks between now and the Feb. 7 deadline, but he is on the final year of his deal and, with his role and playing time diminishing under Nick Nurse, hasn’t shown the kind of progression needed to boost his trade value.

OG Anunoby is certainly a player of undeniable promise but it’s unclear whether he holds the same regard outside of the Toronto market.

The Raptors do have the salaries to match. A package of Siakam, Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and draft picks in exchange for Davis and the expiring contract of Solomon Hill would technically work. But is it the best New Orleans can do?

The answer likely lies in the draft picks, and this is where the Raptors really pale in comparison to others.

Call it a happy consequence of winning, but unless Toronto is dealing future picks — and you’d have to think the Pelicans would want immediate selections that can help land them another potential star via the draft to accelerate their rebuild— it’s unlikely Toronto’s picks would be high enough to entice New Orleans.

This season, the Raptors’ pick, top-20 protected, will belong to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the DeMar DeRozan trade. And whether Leonard stays or goes, selections in the next couple of seasons may not even be in the lottery, plummeting their value given the Pelicans’ situation.

Compare that to the most popular — or at least most-rumoured — potential landing spots like Boston or Los Angeles, and the Raptors can’t compete.

The Raptors Are Elite—and They’re Not Even at Their Best Yet

The defining Kawhi Leonard highlight in a night full of Kawhi Leonard highlights came from when he used just one Klaw (naturally). With four minutes left in the fourth quarter in Wednesday night’s 113-102 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Leonard snagged a defensive rebound over Ben Simmons and sprinted toward his own basket. Joel Embiid tried to keep stride, but the Toronto star left him behind at the Raptors’ free throw line. As Leonard took flight, he passed by a swipe from Jimmy Butler. He went by each of Philly’s Big Three for a single, Wholesale jerseys
game-sealing one-handed dunk. In that moment, it seemed like the Raptors had left the Sixers behind in the race for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Toronto entered Wednesday with the best record in the East (and the best record in the NBA overall). But the Sixers were on the rise, going 8-2 with Butler in the lineup. Philly may not have had the same fast start as Milwaukee or Toronto, but with the addition of Butler, suddenly it was one star up on the Raps (Leonard and Kyle Lowry) and two on the Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo).

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Keeping count of elite players is pointless if one of them is Leonard, who, when healthy, has been nothing short of a top-five player in recent years. The former Spur has been great already this season; coming into the night, he was averaging 25.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, and three assists. But it still seemed like he wasn’t at full speed. He’s missed six games this season and has yet to play in both ends of a back-to-back as the Raps play it safe with his troublesome hamstring.

But Leonard has shown more signs of being that top-five player of late; Wednesday, he came alive. Kawhi arguably played his best game since joining Toronto, finishing with 36 points in 35 minutes on 24 shots, along with nine boards, five steals, a block, and an assist.
The Raptors as a whole struggled on offense; they shot worse from the field and worse from 3 than Philly. Serge Ibaka chipped in 18 points, but no other starter surpassed seven, including Lowry, who was 1-for-7 from 3 on the night. But the biggest advantage the Raptors have is a roster deep enough to match up with anybody. They needed a big body to throw at Embiid, and sometimes-starter Jonas Valanciunas put up a season-high 26 points off the bench. They also needed someone to carry the load on offense, and Leonard came through with a superstar-level performance.

Inside Pascal Siakam’s 6,000-mile journey to Raptors stardom

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story first posted on May 5, 2018.

IT IS A raucous November night at the TD Garden in Boston as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam calls for the ball in the post, extending his spindly arm while Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, a nimble defender, ambles over to guard him
Brown aims to body up this long drink of sinew and muscle and bone, but he errs by a half second to take measure of the Raptors’ animated big man. Siakam seizes on that glint of hesitation, unleashing a 360-degree spin move that is too quick, too fast, too explosive for Brown to counteract.

Siakam whirls to the basket, leaving Brown — and an incredulous Garden crowd — dumbfounded. “I’m so quick with it,” Pascal says, “it’s hard to recover from it.”

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Like that spin move, Siakam’s career is exploding at warp speed, his trajectory as limitless as those long arms that afford him a 7-foot-3 wing span. Toronto has burst out of the cheap nba jerseys china
blocks with a 20-4 mark, tops in the Eastern Conference, and while the chatter has rightfully centered on the blockbuster trade that netted the Raptors supernova Kawhi Leonard and valued veteran Danny Green, new head coach Nick Nurse, who traversed the country charting the offseason workouts of his players, came to an additional conclusion. “I knew,” Nurse says, “that Pascal would be a focal point for us.”

Siakam’s NBA ascent has been astonishing, beginning in 2016 when he arrived as a raw 22-year-old whose energy and athleticism landed him in the starting lineup after Jared Sullinger, signed to be the team’s power forward, was injured.

For a Cameroonian kid who didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was nearly 18, Siakam’s rise through the ranks was almost too good to be true. It was. One day, Siakam recalls, Toronto president Masai Ujuri informed him he would be playing for the Raptors’ D League (now G League) affiliate that night.

Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 114, Kings 105

Who else is sleepy and bleary-eyed after four West coast games in six nights?

[raises hand slowly] [yawns]

Impressively, the Raptors ran the table in those four games, beating the Sacramento Kings last night to move to 11-1 on the season. A few thoughts:

The Raptors Seemed Unprepared for Sacramento’s… Defense?
The Kings came in to the game with the league’s 20th ranked defense (by defensive rating); the Raptors, on the other hand, had the second-ranked offense.

But you’d think those roles were reversed if you watched the first eight minutes.

The Kings were hyper-aggressive on D, doubling Kawhi Leonard every time he touched the ball and putting on full-court pressure after makes. And the Raptors looked initially unprepared for it, with three turnovers in the first three minutes and a generally lethargic offense that mostly just settled for 3-pointers early,Cheap Toronto Raptors Jerseys and spotted the Kings an early 22-14 lead.

The way to beat such aggressive D and traps is to get the ball moving quickly. The Raptors, of course, figured it out after a couple minutes, and held a 29-26 lead at the end of the quarter.

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The Pascal Siakam Love-in Continues
I’ve spent a lot of time taking about Pascal Siakam’s offense lately, but he’s been almost as impressive on defense. One play early stood out to me last night; with the clock winding down at the end of the first quarter, Siakam found himself matched up with Frank Mason after a switch.

Mason looked like he wanted to take Siakam off the dribble… and Siakam wasn’t having it. Look where Mason starts, and look where he ends up:

Siakam may not yet have the strength to match up with a LeBron James, but he sure has the footspeed and quickness to match up with smaller guards on the perimeter.

(Also: Pascal Siakam is still really really good on offense. 21 points on 11 shots!)

Breakaway Speed, AKA Why Raptors Twitter is the Best
With three minutes to go in the first half, the Raptors had built up an 11-point lead when De’Aaron Fox hit a triple to bring the Kings back within eight. Danny Green proceeded to hit back-to-back threes, and OG Anunoby threw down a dunk (and the Raptors forced two Kings midrange jumpshots and got a steal) and the lead was suddenly 16.