A couple of things. When you arrive in NY and you don’t have tickets to a game, you pay through the teeth. So only deciding the day before to hit the Barclay’s Centre for Game 4 of the Raptors-Nets first round series means that, unless you want to pay more than a first-class ticket back to Pearson, you’re going to be sitting so far up that even Valanciunas looks like a child. But hey, at least you can see him…
So, climbing high into the darkness (seriously, the Barclay’s centre is the darkest arena we’ve ever been to), we settled in to watch our boys start off like they were on the playground playing against a bunch of fifth graders. This was the start dreams are made of. DeRozan was playing like a man possessed – hitting contested jump shots like it was just another day at the office – scorching the Nets for 20 first half points. At one point, Brooklyn’s down 17 and the fans are booing loudly – we’re just not sure at which team.
Before the game, a Brooklyn towel has been placed across every seat. The fact that we’re not waving these widely in the air (and that we’re cheering every time the Raptors do, well, anything) makes us stand out immediately. We are not well liked. But we didn’t come here to make friends, we came for the W.
The second half is a rude awakening. The Nets had managed to close it to within seven by the end of the second quarter and they start off the third on an 8-0 run. A group behind us starts up a Toronto chant that is overwhelmed by boos within seconds. 20,000 people are suddenly cheering against us. That’s a lot of boos – it’s like they’re doing the wave with negativity. The Raps fight though. And cling. And we sit on the edge of our seat through the third, trading the lead back and forth terrified that Paul Pierce is going to show us The Truth and that we’ll never recover.
It’s hot and dark and loud but we’re not losing and nothing else matters. Our boys are simply refusing to go away. The energy is palpable, but it’s strange to be sure, because it’s the kind of energy that’s entirely against you. The Raptors continue to show their toughness though. And there’s a growing feeling that the first round is not enough for them; that simply making the playoffs isn’t something they’re going to be happy with. After all, the Nets did everything in their power to tank into 6th place so they could play the Raptors. We want to make them regret that decision.
Even when the Raptors go 1-16 to start the second half and shoot only 19% in the entire third quarter (a stretch so bad it makes a regular cold streak look like a nice option), we’re still, somehow, unbelievably, tied going into the fourth. Even when we go down 77-73 with six minutes to go and the long drowning chant of Broookkkkllllyyyynnnn starts to smother us like an ugly wet blanket. Even when Kyle Lowry, the most unforgivable all-star snub in recent years, steps back onto the court looking hobbled and half broken – there’s still hope for the Raptors in the stadium. And we watch in disbelief as Lowry puts the team on his back and channels Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (of all people) to roll a sweet right-handed skyhook over Kevin Garnett in the final stretch of the game that sees the Raptors, behind an extraordinarily suffocating defense, close out the game on a 14-2 and win their first road playoff game since 2001 (yes, 2001).
People are angry. We’re happy. And as we walk out someone yells at us “Get out of Brooklyn.” We look back and he says, “don’t look at me, just get the hell out of Brooklyn.” It might sound funny, but we took it more as a sign of respect than anything else. He just didn’t want to see Toronto (or its fans) anymore – which means we’re being taken seriously. Which means we’re just as dangerous as we want to be.
Game 5 is Wednesday night at the ACC. And we hope we’ll be inviting Brooklyn to stay as long as they like.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)