As the Raptors look ahead to Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors at 8 p.m. tonight, their Game 1 victory is still being scrutinized by NBA commentators and sports journalists around the world. Let’s take a look at what’s being said about the Raptors and our city.
Can the Raptors keep it up?
Heading into the second game of the series, the big question is whether the Raptors can continue the success of their first game.
ESPN staff writer Kirk Goldsberry says the Warriors “must figure out what to do with Pascal Siakam,” who had a stellar finals debut. He continues on to say it’s “fair to say Siakam won’t do that again this series.”
Goldsberry writes that tonight’s game might not be as important as it might seem.
“Is Game 2 a must-win for Golden State? Heck no. Just ask the Raptors, who lost their first two games at the Milwaukee Bucks in ugly fashion before rattling off four straight wins. If Toronto taught us anything in the East finals, it’s not to overreact to who wins the first game.”
The team that’s hard to hate
For Warriors fans, it’s hard to find a Raptors player to hate, San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Ann Killion writes.
“Because this Raptors team is pretty darn likable. Incredibly professional. Full of compliments and respect for the Warriors and their achievements.”
She praises Kawhi Leonard’s calm nature, calling him the “anti-LeBron,” and notes Marc Gasol’s involvement with the Mediterranean refugee crisis. She mentions several other players, including Siakam’s homage to his late father—writing “RIP Dad” on his shoes before every game—and his explanation that he is playing for a “bigger purpose.”
“You going to dislike these guys, Warriors fans? That’s a tough task,” says Killion. “Thank goodness for Drake.”
A ratings game
It’s a double whammy for the NBA’s ratings this finals season, the Associated Press writes. LeBron James isn’t there to draw views—and Canadian numbers don’t count toward the American viewership total. Game 1 had the lowest American rating for any first game of an NBA title series in a decade, according to ESPN.
In his nightly newsletter Reliable Sources, CNN’s Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter wrote: “Blame Canada?”
CNN Media Critic Brian Lowry adds that Toronto being in the finals “deprives ABC of the ratings boost that would come from a second major U.S. city with a direct rooting interest.”
Viewership was quite a different story in the North. Last week’s game was the NBA’s most-watched in Canada’s history, with 7.4 million viewers, or around 20 per cent of the country’s population, the Associated Press said.
Basketball: a ‘new sport’ to Canada?
In a quote that has already raised some eyebrows on Twitter, Gene Cherry writes for Reuters that “Ice hockey-loving Canada suddenly had a new sport to cheer for.” (Basketball was invented by James Naismith — a Canadian — in 1891.)
In contrast, Jerry Brewer, a Washington Post columnist, says Ontario is a “basketball province.”
“It has been amazing to experience the first NBA Finals in this pulsating city. Even after acknowledging that a championship opportunity is guaranteed to create a palpable fever anywhere, you can still say Toronto’s fire is burning hotter than the norm.”
Brewer also notes the league’s ambitions to go global. For this to happen, he says, they needed an elite team outside America—and the Raptors have become “a real factor.”
“Players need to recognize that, despite what they’ve heard, Toronto isn’t Basketball Siberia,” he says. “They need to start considering it a destination NBA city.”
Kawhi sharing the spotlight (kind of)
Leonard has been getting well-deserved attention this playoff series, but Game 1 brought the spotlight on some fellow teammates (he was limping at the first game, but coach Nick Nurse says he expects him to play better in Game 2). The Warriors’ focus on guarding Leonard opened up the court for other players like Siakam, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet, ESPN NBA writer Tim Bontemps writes.
He adds that “the Raptors won’t be terribly upset if things remain the same.”
But Bontemps says Leonard has still been “at the center of everything the Raptors have done.”
Scott Ostler, a sports columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, imagines Steph Curry as “the Transformer”—and adds that VanVleet “is a pretty good villain name.”
“He even has evil accomplices, as the Raptors send a ton of blitzes and double-teams at Curry. Curry will have to contend not only with VanVleet, but also with a team that may have come into the Finals a bit star-struck by their opponents and awestruck by their sudden ascension, but now appear to feel a surge of confidence and a sense of destiny.”
Sherina Harris is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @sherinaharris