Tuesday, May 24, 2016


NBA Conference Finals-2016

Last Monday night, the Toronto Raptors scored an impressive 105-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the most important victory in the history of the team, and evened their series at two games each.

The Cavaliers had prepared for the series by cruising through the playoffs without losing a game; consequently, they were a lot fresher than were the Raptors. The Toronto squad had clawed their way through a tough series against the Miami Heat, and were battered and bruised.

                                                                  LeBron James

LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers. He is generally recognized as one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest. Compared to most of the other players on the court, he is a giant. He can crash the basket, he can sweep the boards to get rebounds. And yet, when required, he can shoot the lights out with a deft touch. He has been the Most Valuable Player on several occasions.

But this is a team game, and Lebron and the Cavaliers realize he cannot do it on his own. The management of the Cavs brought in help for the big fella, and that has worked up to this point in the playoffs. Their latest addition, Channing Frye, cannot be ignored when he positions himself outside the arc. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are also key players for the Cavs.

        Kyrie Irving                                                         Kevin Love                                                      

At half time Sunday, those that doubted the Raptors had serious second thoughts. Toronto had led by 18 points at one time. They had dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Cavs 30-17. Kyle Lowry had 15 of those points. The other key player on the Raptors, Demar De Rozan, also had a great game. As those two go, so go the Raptors.

                                                                 Kyle Lowry

Each of those teams also has a Canadian representative: Corey Joseph for the Raps, and Tristan Thompson for the Cavs. They both played well Sunday night, playing significant minutes. Both are from the Toronto area. The fact that they are playing at the highest level indicates the influence the Raptors have had on the game in Canada.

                                                                 Demar DeRozan

The series now heads back to Cleveland for game five. Game six takes place in Toronto, and the areas outside the doors of the Air Canada Centre will be packed with fans. They call that zone “Jurassic Park”. The fans there do their best to get their signs, pictures, and little faces on the television screens as the camera pans that area frequently during the game. (“Did you see me mom?”)

The Western final has also been somewhat surprising. There may be an upset in the making there as well. As the fine commentator Jack Armstrong noted, “It is not preordained that the Warriors and the Cavaliers should play in the final”. It just ain’t necessarily so. The Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry, were supposed to get by the Oklahoma City Thunder without much trouble.

But the Thunder stole one of the two games played on the coast, and basketball fans knew that the Warriors were in trouble.

The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In the third game of their series, Westbrook had 30 points, and Durant had 33. They ended the game with 133 points, matching a franchise record for the most points in a playoff game. That gave the Thunder a 2-1 lead, with the fourth game last night in Oklahoma.

                                                                 Bismack  Biyombo

Before the series began, Jonas Valanciunas, the key big man for the Raptors, was injured. Bismack Biyombo, a towering transplant from Africa, was called off the bench. He has given the team more than they could imagine, sweeping the boards of all unsuccessful shots on both ends of the court. His infectious smile, and pleasant demeanor, have captured the hearts of all Raptor fans.

 Fasten your seat belts, girls and boys. For Raptor fans, this is by far the best ride that they have ever had!!

James Hurst

May 24, 2016.   

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