For all the heartbreaking losses experienced by Toronto sports fans in the downtown concrete square over the years, Thursday night’s Raptors win to inch ever-so-close to their first NBA championship final was just a little sweeter.
Pure ecstasy, really – one win away.
When the clock finally hit zero in Milwaukee with Toronto up 105-99, the Raptors fans, thousands of them inside Jurassic Park and hundreds more lined up down the street, erupted. People of all ages decked from head-to-toe in Raps apparel jumped and screamed and hugged and cheered. They waved flags and danced around.
They didn’t stop chanting and cheering for what seemed like an eternity. They weren’t going to let this moment, this pivotal victory and chance to celebrate, go quietly into the night. They had left quietly after a disappointing loss too many times before.
The fans waved flags and danced around – many of them wearing Kawhi Leonard jerseys. One fan held a sign throughout the night that said, “Kawhi-not?” suggesting it’s the Raptors turn to fight for a title.
And that’s exactly what’s in the grasp of Toronto and its fans. Now its beloved Raptors, who were once down 2-0 in the series to the Bucks, have won three games in a row and are returning back to Toronto on Saturday with a chance to close out the series and advance to the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship series.
Drake watches game at Jurassic Park
Minutes into the game Drake and his entourage entered the Jurassic Park stage as fans took photos and cheered wildly. He didn’t do much to engage the crowd early on in the game – Drake sat on a chair rather subdued, checking his phone and not overly interested in much of what was going on around him.
It was partly due to the Raps falling behind by 10 points in the first half. But by halftime the Raptors cut the Bucks’ lead to three and that’s when Drake came alive.
For much of the second half of the game he stood, pacing across the stage on most possessions, jumping around when the Raps made a shot or stop. He at times whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
By the end of the game Drake was bouncing around the stage, giddy with excitement over the prospect of leading the series and being one win away from the NBA championship final.
When the buzzer sounded, Drake took the microphone for the first time in the evening. The crowd, which had been roaring throughout the evening, went silent.
“We play in an American league and I promise you a Canadian team is going to the NBA Finals,” Drake said.
The fans went wild again. Drake left the stage. The fans kept cheering.
One more victory to reach elusive series
In the past, being close always seemed to be OK for Raptors fans – the reality was that past teams were never going to get past LeBron James. Or making it deep into the playoffs was satisfactory.
But then LeBron left Cleveland.
And then Kawhi came to Toronto. And all the expectations changed.
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Now the Toronto Raptors are exactly where the fans dreamed they would be. This is the closest they’ve ever been to reaching the NBA Finals. The closest they came before this was three years ago, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. They even fought back from being down 2-0 in that series to tie it after two victories in Toronto.
But three years ago, that team lost Game 5 miserably and then came home for Game 6 deflated and lost the series.
Now they’re coming home having won Game 5, with the chance to close out the series. Momentum is on the side of the Raptors.
They have an entire city and country on their side too.
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CBC | Sports News