The Toronto Raptors need you to believe in them. Here are nine reasons why you should.
1) Deadly DeMar DeRozan
It’s no secret DeMar DeRozan is having a career year. Being ranked 46th by a sports publication really sparked the start to his season by regularly dropping 30+ PPG. DeRozan isn’t prime Kobe Bryant, but no one should be expecting him to be. However, DeRozan has been similar to Kobe this season in late game situations. DeMar has been great in hero ball by sealing games with clutch daggers. If the game is tight I wouldn’t bet against the Compton kid if the ball is in his hands.
Future All-Star Jonas Valanciunas Playoff Jonas Valanciunas Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas was the Raptors most consistent player in the playoffs against the Pacers and Heat before getting injured last season. For whatever reason, he’s had trouble with rookie Thon Maker in this series. However, if his minutes were to mirror with Greg Monroe’s minutes he might be able to show some dominance. Monroe isn’t a plus defender, so Valanciunas should be able to body him inside. Jonas is the best rebounder on the Raptors and he’s one of most efficient scorers on the team. Don’t count him out just yet.
3) Kyle Lowry Will Return to Form
Kyle Lowry has only played a handful of games since returning from injury. He’s shown a resemblance to the Lowry we all know and love on the offensive side of the ball except for the three-ball. Pre All-Star Kyle was shooting almost 42% from three. The Bucks haven’t been respecting the Raptors from behind the arc. The Raptors need to find Lowry when he’s open so he can put respect on his name and force the Bucks to respect the Raptors from deep. Since returning he hasn’t looked like himself at all on the defensive side of the ball. You have to figure sooner rather than later Lowry will get his legs under him and show some toughness. After all, he’s heading into a free agency that will likely determine the value of his last NBA contract.
4) The Turtle known as Jakob Poeltl
Jakob Poeltl passes every eye test known to mankind. The rookie might not be putting up impressive stats yet, but he also hasn’t played a ton of minutes this season. So, let’s forget about numbers. Poeltl doesn’t quit on a play. He’s a tough defender that chases the loose ball when he misses. So, when the rest of the Raptors have quit on the play he’s still there fighting for the putback.
5) Don’t Sleep on Tucker’s Impact
PJ Tucker is a beast on defense. Maybe he hasn’t shown it much in this series yet, but he will. He’s the type of perimeter defender that should be able to lock down a sharpshooter like Khris Middleton. Tucker has also shown the ability to guard multiple positions this season. That’s super important considering the Raptors often need help on switches when they need to close out on a three. Did I mention Tucker can splash threes from the corners on the offensive side of the ball? Since the all-star break, the Raptors have struggled with their three-point shooting. All it often takes is one three to spark a run and Tucker can deliver that.
6) Filled Hole at PF
Serge Ibaka has done wonders for the Raptors on both ends of the floor. The Raptors have had a massive hole at power forward ever since Chris Bosh left. Not to throw shade on former Raptor Amir Johnson or current Raptor Patrick Patterson, but these guys aren’t 40+ minute guys. I have a soft spot in my heart for both, but they were never the answer to the question who should the Raptors starting power forward be. Patman has been good in relief for the Raptors in his tenure with the Raptors. He thrives in that 20-25 minute role and helps gives the bench that boost. Patterson is a good defender that can stretch the floor on offense. People might want to point out that his percentages might not be great and they aren’t wrong, but Patrick isn’t a volume shooter. When he’s only taking six shots a game it isn’t required of him that he shot 50% from the field and 40% from three. However, what is mandatory from Patrick is that he hit open threes when the Bucks give him space. God, forbid he miss and then the next look goes to DeMarre Carroll.
7) Chemistry & Experience
Over the years we have seen this Raptors core build chemistry. And this season we have seen PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka seamlessly fit with this Raptors group. This Raptors team has far more playoff experience than the Bucks who have been relying heavily on two rookies.
The Raptors are deep, baby! The Raptors bench have kept the Raptors in games this season. If the Raptors run into problems early in a game they shouldn’t be afraid to throw it over to the bench. Jakob Poeltl, Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Patrick Patterson can give the Raptors a spark when the flint runs dry.
9) Now or Never
The Raptors will have four key free agents this summer in Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker, and Patrick Patterson. If the Raptors fail against the Bucks it’s not a sure thing the Raptors will try to keep any of them. These players are smart enough to know this by now. I truly believe these guys enjoy playing for the Raptors. If they want to stay they will figure out how to deliver some wins. These guys are all fighters. So, don’t expect them to throw in the towel especially if their back is against the wall.
Don’t stop believing. Hold on to that feeling.