I would like to say what I saw in game one was a surprise to me but it really wasn’t. The Raptors came out a little bit intimidated by the moment perhaps. The Nets took control and led through the majority of this game. The Raptors defensive play was struggling down the stretch in the regular season and no surprise it continued here in game one. What added to that was Terrence Ross getting into foul trouble and when he checked out John Salmons was no match for Joe Johnson.
I also commented during the season the Raptors reliance on the three point shot would cost them in the playoffs and it would not be as effective. In game one the Raptors were struggling from the three point line and did not have a lot of success with it. Some of that was feeling forced to take some with no shot clock for part of the game. Which as it turns out was caused by the ESPN broadcast but can’t blame them not like they are ever here right?
DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson who I expressed my personal joy they got to experience this playoff atmosphere did not exactly thrive in it. DeRozan could not make a shot to save his life in this game and Johnson was not nearly as effective and I think before this series ends we could see Patrick Patterson inserted in the starting line-up.
All of this said the story of this game and perhaps the series happened before the ball even went in the air for it to begin. Masai Ujiri was out from of the ACC in Maple Leaf Square that had been occupied by Raptor fans in a friendly takeover. He addressed the crowd that was in the thousands and looked tremendous for people across this country and an eye opener for people south of the border.
But on to the reason we started this story as Masai addressed the crowd he concluded his remarks with F- Brooklyn which drew a massive roar from the fans. Ujiri would make a half hearted apology at halftime but stating that he still doesn’t like those guys in reference to the Nets.
Many are wondering what could have happened to Masai to cause him to lose his senses like this. He claimed the excited crowd got the best of him but I am not buying that. I think Masai knew exactly what he was doing and it was pretty damn brilliant. The focus after game one was on what he said before it started and not how bad his team played in the game.
Maybe I am giving Masai Ujiri more credit than he deserves with this but I do not think I am. Masai is not a stupid man and I am sure he knows realistically his Raptors are in tough in this series and wanting to take the focus or pressure off of them makes a lot of sense.
If anything it got the media talking about this series and made for some titles in newspapers that were colourful to say the least. In the end this series is playing out as advertised as Paul Pierce showed why the Nets wanted him in the first place in the off-season. He has experience and is a clutch performer. In these playoff games when it can come down to just a couple possessions he is the most clutch guy in the series.
Masai will not be able to come up with anything that changes the fact that Raptors must win game 2 to have any chance in this series at all. Heading into this series I thought it might compare to the 2007 series between the two franchises. It might actually end up like the series in 1999 with Knicks where a young and talented Raptors team was swept aside by a very experienced Knicks team.
The Raptors looked out classed and despite the fans and Raptors complaining about the refs it only served to add to the problem and took away their focus from the actual task of beating the Nets. It is getting to the point where the Raptors and fans come off as whiners about the officiating which doesn’t help the situation at all. It is almost becoming a conspiracy like theory at this point. I have argued and debated this with Raptors fans on Twitter to the point I am tired of doing it. Even if I am going to accept the theory that the refs are against the Raptors I am pretty confident fans chanting things like “Refs You Suck,” and F-U Refs is not helping. Nor are players constantly questioning calls and Dwane Casey as well. Someone suggest Casey should take a tech and make a point. It would only cost Dwane money and is not going to change anything in a positive way.
Here is the thing and it’s tough to admit or accept but at the end of the day the simple fact was that the Nets were better. It really is that simple. The Raptors will need to be much better to avoid the same fact in game number two.