Toronto Raptors

Toronto Sports Teams Had a Great 2016

I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.

In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!

Toronto FC
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.

Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.

Toronto Raptors
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.

Toronto Argonauts
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.

In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.

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DeMar DeRozan Sets Raptors Record for All-Time Points

Last night, the Raptors were in Oakland losing to the mighty Warriors. I went to bed after a disastrous first quarter but see we came back to make it a game. At some point, DeMar DeRozan surpassed Chris Bosh as the franchise leading scorer. He now has 10290 points.

Here's the current all-time Raptors top ten.

  1. DeMar DeRozan - 10290
  2. Chris Bosh - 10275
  3. Vince Carter - 9420
  4. Andrea Bargnani - 6581
  5. Morris Peterson - 6498
  6. Kyle Lowry - 5771
  7. Jose Calderon - 5235
  8. Doug Christie - 4448
  9. Antonio Davis - 3994
  10. Amir Johnson - 3957

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My Oldest Two Kids Rank Toronto's Teams

In the world of professional sports, I'm focused on the Jays vs. Red Sox this afternoon. A win and we'll host the wild card game Tuesday. This is a big game.

I was just biking with my two older kids and we were chatting about the Jays. My 14-year old son is more excited about Auston Matthews' debut with the Leafs tonight. My daughter will "follow" the game on Instagram. This led to each of us ranking Toronto's big 6 teams in terms of personal preference.

My 14-Year Old Son's Rankings

  1. Leafs
  2. Raptors
  3. Jays
  4. Marlies
  5. TFC
  6. Argos

My 12-Year Old Daughter's Rankings

  1. Raptors
  2. Leafs
  3. Jays
  4. Marlies
  5. TFC
  6. Argos

Straight from the mouths of babes, as they say. Despite the fact I watch most Jays games and talk about the team often, the team is a distant third on each of their lists.

You can lead a horse to water...

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2015-16 Raptors Season Ends

Our We The North flag is still hanging in the bay window. Yesterday's loss to the Cavs in game six wasn't unexpected, and to be frank, we were ready for it. And when it was all over, I didn't feel sad or mad, I felt glad it happened.

It's been a great six months for Toronto's sports teams. The Jays and Raps both got within two wins of the finals, and the Leafs won the draft lottery. That's more success than we saw in the previous decade.

After the best regular season in franchise history, I knew what I had to see. I needed to see the Raps win a playoff series. Heck, I needed to see them win two.

We did that, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals against the mighty Cavs. I was confident the Raptors were the second best team in the conference, but even more certain that the Cavs were the best team in the conference. I predicted the Cavs would win in five.

The Raps gave all they had, giving us fans a helluva ride, making further progress. It was both infuriating, and exhilerating. It was, as sports is meant to be, damn fun.

bismack

My focus returns to the .500 Blue Jays and the hopes the offense will right itself and we'll be enjoying another pennant race this September. The next step is a championship.

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Raptors Advance to Conference Finals

In the end, it wasn't even close. The Raptors beat the Heat handedly in game seven of their second round series to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The final score was 116-89.

Prior to tipoff, I was surprised by how little anxiety I felt. It was as if I had seen the game and knew we won. Here's what I tweeted.

Kyle Lowry was unbelievably good. He scored 35 points, added 9 assists and 8 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan wasn't too shabby himself, finishing with 28 points and 8 rebounds. This is the backcourt that led us to the 2 seed in the East.

lowry

Bismack Biyombo added 17 points and 16 rebounds, helping us forget that Jonas Valančiūnas was watching from the sidelines in a camouflage suit.

This is now, without a doubt, the most successful Raptors season in franchise history. It's our first conference final, and equals the distance the 2015 Blue Jays went before they bowed out in the ALCS. The Leafs haven't been to a conference final since 2001-02.

I'm not going to worry about what lies ahead. Instead, I'm going to enjoy the fact we've finally won a conference semi-final series. How sweet it is!

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Sorry, I Can't Get Riled Up Over Wade's Anthem Shots

Prior to game 3 in the Raptors ~ Heat series, Dwyane Wade was caught shooting during the singing of O Canada. Here's the video evidence.

I get the feeling I'm supposed to get all riled up about this, yet I feel nothing. Was it disrespectful? Probably. Should Wade apologize and promise not to do it again? Probably. But I sure don't feel angry about it.

Maybe that's because I don't really believe we should be singing anthems before games. Maybe that's because I don't believe Wade was trying to slight this country. Maybe that's because there are enough upsetting things in the world, and this one just doesn't make the cut.

I just want to see the Raps come out and win tonight so we have a chance to clinch at home in game five. That's what has me all riled up.

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Raptors Win 7-Game Series

Heading into last night's game seven at the ACC, I was asked for my prediction. With apologies to Forrest Gump, I ended up comparing the Raptors to a box of chocolates. I could see us winning big, but I could also see us losing big.

Despite our two all-stars still struggling to make buckets, we were up by 14 to start the fourth quarter. A 14-point lead never felt so fragile. With just under three minutes to play, that lead was down to 3.

We held on, as you know, to advance to the second round for only the second time in franchise history. We'll face the Heat and I'm thinking we'll have to shoot better than 38.2% if we're going to have a chance at advancing.

Thank you Cory Joseph, thank you Norman Powell, thank you Patrick Patterson, and thank you DeMarre Carroll. Bring on the Heat!

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Damn Raptors

Let's go back to the Rudy Gay trade. It was late 2013, and the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in a 7-player deal. The Kings sending John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes to Toronto in exchange for Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy.

That's when the Raptors team I fell in love with was born. Everything came together the remainder of that season. They immediate went on a 10-3 run and finally rose above .500. DeMar DeRozan was an all-star. We won the Atlantic Division, but lost to the Nets in the first round. Fuck Brooklyn.

We started the 2014-15 season 24-8. The core of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan won us another Atlantic Division title. We won a franchise record 49 games that season, but not a single one in the playoffs.

That brings us to this season. I watched more Raptors basketball this season than ever before. Lowry and DeRozan were all-stars again, and this team was exciting. 56 wins is a new franchise record, and for the first time ever, the Raps were a 2 seed in the conference. As pleased as I was with the regular season, I'm no fool. Here's a thorough explanation as to why I was showing restraint.

The Raptors have never won a best-of-seven playoff round. Never. This team was built to change that, but proof is in the pudding. Winning one round is essential, but it's going to take at least two to satisfy fans.

This pudding tastes like shit. Our all-stars are shooting miserably. At least Lowry is contributing in other ways. On most nights, DeRozan is most helpful with his ass nailed to the bench. I'd argue, with Lowry and DeRozan unable to make baskets, we're the least intimidating 2 seed in NBA history.

Tomorrow night is game 7. As a guy who has invested so many hours in this teams, I'm pissed, hurt, disappointed and dismayed. Do I believe we can win this series? Hell no. I hope I'm wrong, but I know stealing this series in seven likely means getting swept in round two. This is not a team built for the playoffs. This is a team built for the regular season.

Our We The North flag continues to hang in the bay window, and we're still hoping the regular season Raps show up Sunday night, but the writing's on the wall. The team needs an enema.

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Forgiving Vince Carter

Tonight, I surprised myself. I was at the Raptors game with the family and when Vince Carter entered the game, I found myself cheering. It was completely spontaneous. I was sincerely happy to see him again.

Less than two years ago I wrote this about Vince Carter. He quit on us, forcing Rob Babcock to make a terrible trade, and I was still pissed. There was no way I was going to forgive Vince for how he left this team.

2016-02-21_06-26-36

But there I was, with my 22-month old on my lap, flanked by my 14-year old and 11-year old, applauding Vince, and all that bitterness dissipated. I remembered the good times, and there were many. I remembered how he put this franchise on the map, the consistent flashes of brilliance and the complete and total Vinsanity that engulfed this city.

2016-02-21_06-27-01

It helps that I recently blew my kids' minds with YouTube videos of his best plays, and that he'll likely retire without a championship. It also helps that this team he abandoned is so damn good now, and to be honest, it helps that I'm older now, with new perspective on sport and life.

2016-02-21_08-03-37

I've forgiven Vince, and it feels good.

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Why Raptors Fans are Showing Restraint

The Toronto Raptors have won 14 of their last 15 games. They're doing it as a team, they're doing it on the road, they're doing it with defense and they're doing it without DeMarre Carroll. But make no mistake, this team is doing it.

Why Raptors Fans are Showing Restraint

The Raps are only 2 games behind the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, and as exciting as it's been, we fans are showing great restraint. This team will be judged by one thing and one thing only, and that's success in the playoffs.

The Raptors have never won a best-of-seven playoff round. Never. This team was built to change that, but proof is in the pudding. Winning one round is essential, but it's going to take at least two to satisfy fans.

It all starts in mid-April. Until then, continue to show restraint.

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