Once again, the Raptors showed their strength of character. At the end of a year very complicated by its exile in Florida due to the health crisis, the Canadian franchise left without real objective except that of appearing at best in an Eastern conference always more raised.
Again deprived of their supporters during the campaign, Nick Nurse’s men also suffered their share of injuries and resumed after the All-Star Weekend with two catastrophic outings in Charlotte (-32) then Atlanta (-27), putting back question their chances of grabbing 6th place synonymous with direct qualification in the playoffs.
A historical series
And then Toronto got up, and how, taking advantage of its last « road trip » to rediscover its combative and collective values. With a stop in Los Angeles to beat the Lakers then the Clippers, the Raptors have thus lined up five straight away victories, a first in the history of the franchise!
« It comes down to the identity and concentration of each of the players »recalled Fred VanVleet, captain on board. “It speaks to our cohesion, our rhythm and our understanding of the game and that even if some guys are having a good day or not, we always seem to be honest. There is also frankness, communication is always at the center and that helps a lot. A lot happens in a game and throughout the season and you have to know how to keep your cool throughout the season.
This is indeed what emerges from this series of victories far from their bases: the Raptors show a permanent commitment with aggressiveness and a collective in which confidence reigns and pulls the whole team up. We will particularly remember this bewildering start to the match at the Staples Center against the overwhelmed Lakers.
« We just want to fight every night, no matter what happens, if the odds are against us, or whatever. »confirmed Pascal Siakam. “Whether there is one player or two down, we have to keep fighting, playing together, as a team and trying to get the win. I think we did an excellent job during this road trip by staying united, respecting the game plan. And whatever happens above all, we stay together”.
6th place in the East in the sights
The Raptors are determined to play their itchy role until the end of the season. In any case, Fred VanVleet has enough to tackle the sequel with full confidence, Toronto still in the race to grab sixth place at the expense of Cleveland, since the two teams have the same record (39 wins – 30 losses).
“We have a lot of guys who are still learning how to win and others who know how to do it. This mix has been pretty fun this year. I like where we are. Our group is definitely growing and we have plenty to be excited about,” he continued. « It took us a few games to get back on track, but we’re proud of how the guys reacted. We win in different ways, with different guys, who shine every night, we can’t take that for granted. It is difficult to win regularly in this league”.
There are thirteen games left to secure this sixth place. Nothing will be given to them since they will already have to beat the Lakers again, at home this time, tonight. Then come three shocks: in Philadelphia, Chicago and then at home against the Cavs.
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