The Toronto Raptors held off the charge from the Brooklyn Nets to win the Atlantic Division and take home court for themselves in the first round of the playoffs. Put all the ‘tank talk’ about the Nets aside, they might have wanted to face the Raptors, but they did everything they could over the last six weeks of the regular season to open the playoffs in the Barclay’s Center and the Nets fell short.
“(Home court,) that’s very important,” Greivis Vasquez said. “I don’t remember the last time we lost a game. It is really going to help us. We got the right guys and hopefully everything is going to work out for us in the playoffs and we get a couple of series and go to the Conference Finals – who knows? But we have to go game-by-game.”
The Raptors have gone 10-3 at home since the end of February, beating the Warriors, Grizzlies, Hawks, Rockets and Pacers along the way. Confidence in home court has been earned in Toronto. They expect to win every game at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto hasn’t been intimidated by any team in the league since the big trade in early December. They have gone up against the NBA’s biggest stars and come out with victories – except over LeBron James. It was the Raptors that snapped the red hot Nets two 5-game winning streaks in January. As Vasquez keeps saying, they are not afraid – it’s a privilege.
“It’s unbelievable man,” Vasquez said. “That’s why you play in this league. You are playing against the best players in the world. It’s a privilege to play in this league.”
The Raptors are led by Kyle Lowry’s break out season at the point and the team’s newest All-Star DeMar DeRozan, but playoff success is going to hinge on the same factors that turned Toronto’s season around – the four players they received from the Kings in the Rudy Gay trade. John Salmons and Chuck Hayes provide veteran stability and will do what they do, but Patrick Patterson and Vasquez are finally on the big stage with big roles and they have something to prove.
“This is a good chance for me to prove what I can do,” Vasquez said. “Obviously, when I get the chance and the chance is given to me, I am happy to take advantage, but right now it is just about helping my team win whether I come off the bench or I start or whatever they want me to do. I want to be out there helping the team and I will be. I just have to keep playing my game. I have been shooting the ball very very well. I’ve been hot. I want to be out there, especially at the end of games.”
In the playoffs, getting that chance to be out there at the end of the games will come down to matchups and effectiveness. Vasquez knows what he needs to do.
“I want to be there and the only way I can get there is to be playing good defense, solid defense and hitting shots and (Coach Casey) will trust me to be there,” Vasquez said. “We’ll see what happens.”
There is a lot of confidence throughout the Raptors locker room and it’s been earned. Toronto has the best record in the Eastern Conference since the Gay trade, now it’s time to see if they can take their regular season success into the playoffs.
Amir Johnson: Raptors Are Proud Of This Season
Especially for the guys that play and work all year, we get to sit back and say – okay – we actually did something this season,” Johnson said. “Starting from training camp, to everything happening, to trades, to now this, it is a great honor.”
Greivis Vasquez Photo credit: Paul Saini