Bring On The Playoffs!!

By Clinton Hosannah
Updated: April 18, 2008

Toronto RaptorsTORONTOWell it is official, the Toronto Raptors will be playing the Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs starting this weekend, thanks to a Raptor win against Miami at home on Monday and a Cavalier win over Philadelphia just half hour after.

But the real action on Monday night was happening in the Raptors’ locker room, after, the unimpressive must-win game Toronto played against the Heat.

Everywhere in the Air Canada Centre, eyes were plastered to TV screens watching the game between Philadelphia and the Cavaliers. If Philly won it would mean that the Dinos would have to battle the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs.

Orlando is a solid team and an aggressive team but Toronto fans would much rather have the Raptors play against the Magic in the first round.

Even though there were cheers coming out of the closed Raptors’ locker room when, Cavalier guard, Devin Brown dropped the winning free throw, you couldn’t tell from Sam Mitchell’s demeanor.

“There’s no point in us comparing the teams, because we don’t play Detroit we play Orlando,” said Mitchell. “We got one more basketball game to play; we got a lot of film to watch.”

“We haven’t seen Orlando in a while, me and the coaches got to get in there and start watching film and start breaking down tape.”

In spite of the fact that Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard matches up well against each other, Orlando is a top notch team and has earned their third place spot in the eastern conference, said Mitchell.

The threat from Orlando comes from Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Turkoglu scored 24 points in two wins out of three meetings between Orlando and Toronto this season, a game high in both instances for the Magic.

Rashard remains a threat on the perimeter and can create off the dribble. This is a big problem for the Raps, if they can’t get more production from Parker, who is inconsistent as of late, Moon who seems to have lost some confidence, opting to shoot rather than penetrate in the last 15 games or so and Kapono, the three point king is going to have to take the shot!

He will have to play solid defense and be a dagger from three point land, in order to give the raptors a fighting chance.

One good thing is that Orlando has a young team without that much playoff experience as well. Toronto has amazing fans and the Raptors’ play is really affected by the fans’ enthusiasm, so winning at home should be easy.

Getting one at Amway Arena is imperative in order for the Dinos to have a chance of getting to a second round playoff opportunity. We can only hope.

Rasho the great is another factor. Nesterovic has been an amazing factor for the Raptors lately. He’s scoring, rebounding, blocking shots and playing crazy defense. He is also giving Chris Bosh an opportunity to get some rest throughout games.

Against Miami, Rasho had a game-high 42 minutes and he looked like he could easily do a marathon after the game. He was second only to Maceo Baston to get dressed. His exploits are being noticed and his is the real story right now considering the Raptors’ season hopes.

“Rasho had three 20-point games second half of the season, I don’t know if Rasho had three 20-point games in his career, in one season, Rasho is playing great for us,” said Mitchell.

The Raptors’ starting five got some rest on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker only played fifteen minutes each throughout the game. But the bench wasted an opportunity to show Coach Mitchell that they could step up to the challenge of actually getting to play, but at least the outcome of the game was inconsequential and had no bearing on who the Raps would play in the postseason showdown.

But the loss did put a cap on a season with a disappointing end. In March the Raptors won only six of 17 games played. So why are they not jumping for joy that they made it into the play offs? Between Bosh and T.J. Ford they missed about half the season worth of games due to injury and Jorge Garbajosa has been away all season. Chris Bosh.

“The playoffs are going to be intense, and we know that, I think we’re going to meet the intensity,” said Bosh. “We’re just trying to make sure we’re playing decent basketball and then when it’s time we will address everything and get to that matter.”

When asked about his match-up with Howard, Bosh said that it will be a lot of fun playing against a good friend who is extremely athletic and strong. Bosh also admits that he is a mis-match for Howard but he realizes that Orlando will have a plan to try and neutralize Bosh’s quickness.

“We have more of a sense of urgency, I think last year, was like, we were just happy to be there and we kind of thought okay we’re the third seed. We show up and we get smashed. I think this year we know what’s coming,” said Bosh.

“I had never been in a play off series before and it was just a lot different. So this year I can really train the right way because I kind of have an idea of what they want to do to stop me.”

This whole playoff season is going to be excellent ball for the enthusiast, the casual watcher and the first time watcher. With power houses like Boston, Detroit and the cavaliers in the East, and surprise notables like New Orleans in the west. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Raptors’ first playoff game will be on Sunday in Orlando at 12:30 p.m.