Marc Gasol making his first shot of the game with 8:19 left in the third quarter but it being a clutch corner three.
Fred VanVleet hitting another step back three of the imposing length of a closing out Brook Lopez continued Fred’s resurrection late in the series.
Kawhi Leonard’s corner three – about one step away from where he’d hit the Philly dagger – bounced off the rim just once this time but was almost as significant a basket at the four-bouncer a couple of weeks ago.
So, yeah, I guess there were a few that I could expand on in our usual manner but, you know what?
The game was too big for that, the moment too grand, the stakes so high, the result so incredibly uplifting for fans who’ve slogged through 24 years that were at times difficult that reducing the evening to three items would be doing it a disservice.
So, before we get to all the mail – and there’s a fair amount of it I still have to do and it’s already 8:15 a.m. as I type this – let me say just one thing:
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the building as loud or so many people so happy as I did down the stretch last night.
Heaven knows that The People and I have had our issues at times – well, at least some of The People – but seeing them almost delirious in the building and seeing them simply ecstatic standing outside in the spring dampness screaming themselves hoarse and watching them still celebrating in the downtown core when I wandered to the car after 1 a.m. made me feel for them. Feel very happy for them.
And I know it might have sounded cliché and something that he knew he had to say but, trust me, when Kyle Lowry said after the game how much he and his teammates appreciated and needed the support, he wasn’t talking out of his hat.
They feel it. They really do.
As many of you know, I’ve never had that kind of passion for a team at any time, it was a different era when I was growing up and 30 years or so covering pro sports of some kind has beaten the fan out of me and rightfully so.
I can cheer for my stories and I will cheer quietly for a team here or there or choose sides on a nightly basis if something catches my fancy.
But to see your depth of interest, to hear friends and loved ones tell me about dissolving into tears when it was finally over and to feel how heavily invested so many of you are in this team was sweet. It really was.
It’s been a long, crazy and bumpy ride over the last 24 years (I’m trying to come up with some way to write about that later today, as a matter of fact) but for last night, I hope you felt prouder than you ever have.
You deserve it.
And this is why I love The Chicken most of all.
Okay, the mail and then to figure out how to wrap up 24 years in one story and then to catch my breath because, trust me, these are going to be an extraordinarily busy couple of weeks.
And, yeah, I’m a little bit late but it’s been a busy time.
Q: Hey Doug,
Simple question: why doesn’t Toronto have a WNBA team?
A: Complex answer:
It’s never been economically viable and it’s not today; the league hasn’t expanded much (most movement is buy-sell situations); not sure the support would have been good here even five years ago. I suspect they will investigate it more fully when the new CBA is in place after this season and the economic realities are more clear. At least I hope they do, they should.
Q: Doug –
Glad to hear you declare an allegiance to the Packers after admiring the David Bakhtiari chug-athon at Game 5. As a veteran Spotted Cow taste-tester with an eye for talent, can you offer any pointers that would allow him to improve his technique or execution and take his game to the next level? Thanks for sharing your wealth of experience with Packer Nation.
Tom from Milwaukee
A: First off, you have a glass in each hand rather than having to reach for the second. Two, never involve a quarterback in a de facto boat race. Third, these are all things I’ve picked up hanging around bar stools with wise sages.
Q: Mea Culpa…I just never paid attention…
Sir: Since they eliminated the jump ball after the opening tip, I have to admit, I just never paid attention for the reasoning behind who gets the ball at the start of the second, third and fourth quarters. OK, who gets the ball?
A: The team that obtains possession after the opening tip gets possession to start the fourth quarter. The other team gets the ball to start the second and third.
Q: Hi Doug,
Here I sit writing this Thursday morning before game 5, so I won’t ask any Raptors specific questions, as they could be irrelevant. But I’ve got 3 queries.
1. As soon as Game 4 was nearing its conclusion it became very clear the series was going to go at least 6 games. With a potential game 7 on the road, how do you go about preparing for that? What about if a team wins both 5/6 and there’s no need for a game 7, what do you have to do then? I recall a story about 2001 when the Raptors didn’t end up in Milwaukee after losing a game 7.
2. If you’re the Celtics GM, do you really consider resigning Kyrie, for any purpose other than a sign and trade? The chemistry was so bad I’m not sure it’s a team I’d keep together as is.
3. Do you think the Warriors are vulnerable this year, with or without Durant?
A: The maybe/maybe not Game 7 scenario is hard one to handle because it involves a lot of planning away from the real gist of the job, it requires some luck and some foresight and remembering to cancel things before they get too costly. Most of us were frantically cancelling hotels booked for Sunday and Monday in Milwaukee even as the final seconds of Game 6 were unfolding, a lot of us had flights on hold that we had to cancel about the same time as the confetti fell from the sky. It’s just an added layer or three of stuff we have to remember to do while trying to do our jobs.
And, yeah, 2001 in Philly, I had been in charge of booking rooms for the entire Team Star and I forgot to cancel them, Mother Star ate a big number for that gaffe.
If I’m the Celtics, I hope Kyrie finds a better spot, I don’t think anyone wins with him as the No. 1 guy.
With or without Durant, the Warriors can be beaten. This might be an epic series.
Q: Sunday morning and it still doesn’t seem real.
First time for so many things here but how are you doing? And how is The Star going to cover The Finals as “home” paper?
Cheers, and as always “Go Raps”!!!
PS Do you think Paulo from Roma was watching last night? Don’t you hope he was?
A: I have no idea what we’ll do or if we can come up with newfangled ways to cover games and off-day and I guess that’s how I’m going to spend part of my day: On a stool figuring that stuff out.
Man, Paulo! I hope he was and I hope he’s in good health.
Q: Good Morning Doug,
Never thought I would see the day that our heroes get to the finals!
My Raptors journey started at the NBA Draft at Skydome to Vince’s miss to the Lebron wall to last nights triumph…..you can feel all the fans just exhaling , what a game!
However, now we must get greedy!
We want a championship and the Raps have that bad man named Kawhi so we have a punchers chance, also don’t think Golden State are what they were due to injuries and miles on those legs.
Something tells me (maybe hoping) Danny Green finds his shot.
Gotta feeling McCaw and OG are going to be heard from before all is said and done.
Any update on either?
Curious how your feeling today about finally covering an NBA finals with the Raptors in it.
Always a pleasure
A: McCaw is back and will be ready to go on Thursday which is good since this is his third NBA Finals in three years and he’s playing against his old team and we’ll need as many stories as we can get.
OG is likely to be activated and that’s great but I saw him getting a bit of on-court work in on Saturday and I would be stunned if he plays even a bit. He’s healthy but he’s been off for more than a month, has yet to have a single full-contact practice session and no one should count on him.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
Obviously you have never done it before, but how do you think covering an NBA Finals with the Raptors in it will differ from all the other ones you have covered?
Enjoy and thanks for all you do.
A: I think this is about my 16th or 17th NBA Finals and I guarantee you I will never have, and never will, work harder at one than I do in this one. And the hard part? Everyone – that’s everyone here and everyone in the industry whose opinions I respect and who I know – is more likely to read far more closely than they would and that’s some pressure.
Q: Hi Doug,
It’s during this run that I realized something. As Toronto Raptors fans, we are absolutely spoiled in terms of the print/web coverage the team. Probably the best part after the games, win or lose, is reading all the reports and analysis by yourself and your fellow scribes who regularly cover the Raptors: Michael Grange, Eric Koreen, Scott Stinson, Josh Lewenberg, Dave Zarum, Steven Loung, Blake Murphy, Bruce Arthur, Steve Simmons, Cathal Kelly, Ryan Wolstat just off the top of my head. And there are others. It really is a veritable feast of coverage. I’m guessing this must be because of Toronto being a major market and the Raptors being the only team in Canada. I know that broadcast is a slightly different beast, with ESPN and TNT being behemoths in terms of national coverage. But for print, I’m trying to think about other teams in the association who might get the same print coverage as the Raps? Golden State? The Lakers? Keep up the great work and please let you media colleagues know that their excellent work is much appreciated by all Raptors fans out there.
Eric from Thunder Bay.
A: Some of it is a function of the sheer volume of newspapers, television networks and websites that cover the team but, yeah, there is some exceptional work being done here by a very large group of talented reporters and writers. I’m tossing Lori Ewing and Rachel Brady onto your list and I know there are many others I just can’t think of at the moment.
And I would say the Raptors probably have the largest, best media contingent of any team in the league.
Q: Hello Doug,
This is a follow up to last week’s question. Michigan has hired Juwan Howard as their basketball coach. Any thoughts on Howard as a coach? Any insights from those in the know? I’ll save my question about how Brazdeikis rates for this year’s draft for later, maybe the 59thoverall pick. ?
Hopefully by the time I read this, we’re at worst awaiting a Game 7.
A: I’ve had very, very little interaction with Howard over the years but he’s always struck me as a sensible, calm leader and a good man. Friends of mine who know him well thinks he’ll do a great job and I have no reason to doubt them.
Q: I agree about the Vlad Jr screwup
My question is does Rogers believe in Shapiro and Atkins. If so don’t they realize that fans make a baseball team relevant and that they should try to put on a show for them.
The Jays and Rogers represent a whole country but they do not show it
A: There’s no suggestion ownership remotely considering a change in upper management so, yeah, they hired ‘em so they must believe in them. And I think they are finding out by dwindling attendance – and I’d love to know the real TV numbers – just what people think.
Q: Good evening Doug,
I hope the playoffs are not more then the ticker can handle what with the travelling, weird time schedule and obviously lack of sleep.
The reason I am writing is to ask why is Drake allowed to roam the sidelines so freely and even worse get into opponents faces? A few times this year Westbrook has gotten involved in incidences with those in the stands and has been knocked for it.
In my mind Drake is after one thing only – an audience of millions we would never ever get otherwise. I also found that Masai giving him a three quarter million jacket was disgusting to say the least. Drake is supposed to be a pitch man for the team not a clowning jerk. Why does the league allow this to take place??
A: I have absolutely no problem with the standing and cheering and exhorting. It’s a legitimate passion and I admire it. And the league would have no issue with it, nor should it.
I would, though, draw the line at touching a coach or a player or getting even an inch on the court. That’s where the league might have had a word with MLSE.
And I disagree that he’s only after the one thing: The guy’s been a fan all his life, he should enjoy it.
Q: Hey Doug,
We’ve never met or interacted before so no reason you’d take what I’m about to say with a belief of good intentions. I do hope that letting you know I love your work (you were my entry point to understanding the Raps and basketball) and noting I’ve opted for email over Twitter helps build up some cred in your eyes. I’ll also add I’m a new dad (8 months old) of a biracial son and am in the middle of sleep training so I might also be super exhausted!
I doubt you meant to insinuate anything but your drake and preferred celebs tweet felt (to me anyway) similar to all those complaints about how Hispanic players are too flashy in baseball or “don’t play the game the right way”. You know, just a touch prejudiced: older whiter fella prefers the quieter less bouncy white bygone celeb over the global expressive rap icon.
Again, I feel like your values and beliefs are pretty clear and you are someone I think I would strive to emulate in terms of how you treat people. You seem like an incredibly kind and generous and thoughtful human. And maybe it’s just having my son that makes me over-sensitive to these kinds of interpretations but maybe you if you take a beat to reflect on it, you might also see what I saw?
I’m a 1000% not saying you’re racist or even prejudiced but the way the Tweet reads without a more complete context of who Doug Smith is, feels…off.
I hope you continue to cover the Raps for a lot long time, build Canada’s basketball IQ and awareness and remain in good health. I admire you.
Thanks for listening,
A: I appreciate the well thought out e-mail and the kind words very much.
But, really, that’s about the furthest thing from my mind as possible, honestly. And I think I’ve shown that over the course of my career. I picked Nicholson in the two or three seconds I had to type because he’s the most recognizable name I could think of to make a comparison.
Again, thanks for handling your concerns in such a fine fashion, that’s not how things often work around these parts.
Q: Hi Doug,
You’ve encouraged us to purchase an online subscription. I have no problem paying for quality journalism, and have 3 subscriptions to other publications.
My problem is that while I feel The Star’s sports section is one of the best, I don’t need local Toronto news, and the paper’s political stance tends to infuriate. Could a subscription just for Sports coverage be possible?
A: I’m sorry to report that is not now possible. I wish you would reconsider your subscription thoughts because we do fair and balanced reporting and our columnists are our columnist but I respect your decision if you’d prefer not to.
But there’s no way to shop item-by-item now and I doubt that will change.
I’m glad you like our stuff, though.
I don’t understand why obvious fouls during the game aren’t called but fouls near the end of the game to create free throws are called so quickly. Sometimes a player is barely touched and the whistle is blown. How can the referees justify not calling the hard, obvious fouls but then quickly call the game ending fouls?
A: There’s a big difference between a foul in the run of play that may or may not be missed by the officials or may or may not be thought of an obvious foul to those watching and an intentional “take” foul to extend a game, stop the clock or try to save some time.
Refs watch for those intentional fouls and are a bit quicker to blow the whistle on them; refs might miss the odd foul in the course of the game at full speed.
Q: Doug – who is designing Nick Nurse’s hats? When are you coming out with yours?
Mike k London.
A: Mine would have to be a nice fedora, right? And Nick’s are done by Nike and he tells us there are only four in existence. I want the fifth just as a keepsake.
Q: A playoff season of many highlights, both the profound (Kawhi’s series-ending shot) and the personally amusing (Ibaka effortlessly handling post-game questions from francophone grunts, thus demonstrating what an excellent Canadian he makes).
Another motif I’ve enjoyed is that between Gasol, Ibaka and Coach Scariolo, the Raptors run represents a last hurrah of sorts for Spain’s golden generation (Serge also qualifies as an excellent Spaniard).
Speaking of which, the understated and serious Leonard, self-described fun guy, also makes an excellent Canadian in my view and I hope he gives the possibility some consideration. But if he moves on, he will have done everything anyone could have expected or demanded of him this season. The image I’ll be left with is not the iconic four bounces but game four’s left-handed jam over Giannis, apparently accomplished on one leg.
Finally, profound thanks to Bryan Colangelo for executing the trade that brought Lowry to Toronto.
Who would have guessed the mercurial Kyle would be the last man standing from the Raptors transition to extreme competence?
James A., Victoria
A: There are so, so many layers to this story it’s almost tiring. I’m glad I’ve got the usual morning fare for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to maybe type about them.
Would that work out okay?
Q: Greetings Mr Smith,
Hoping this finds you well.
Between a couple of things I have not had the opportunity to watch the HOTH on their impressive foray into the post season. My wife and I had long debated cutting the cord with our cable supplier and, in fact, did a couple of months ago. I suppose my cutting off my viewing access preordained an exciting playoff run, oh well at least I can still read about it the next day.
In any event I am certain that the quality of play, the drama and everything else that goes along with this run has certainly helped you fill in the column space, making it an enjoyable assignment. I do, however, wonder that from the perspective of someone that has been around this organization for as long as you have if maybe you have to pinch yourself every now and again, just to confirm that it is actually happening?
I know many times in the past you have spoken to the degree of difficulty that it is for any team to make it to the final four, and possibly further, but experiencing it now I have found re-enforces that degree of difficulty beyond what I had imagined.
In the event that the HOTH don’t make it to the ultimate level there can be no taking away from the effort that has gone into this season. Good on all of the organization, from Masai on down.
Thanks for what you do,
Doug from B-ford
PS a shout-out to a long time Irregular, McKee Ave Public school figures in my history, my sisters spent most of their elementary years there, I was only there for Kindergarten. A small world it is, Lorie P!
A: Not sure “pinch myself” is the absolute correct phrase but I did have to stop myself from just watching it unfold because it’s been so improbably and historic. I don’t think those of us who are closely invested in chronicling it – this year or through the years – will truly appreciate what we see until it’s all over and we can relax and look back.
Will the Raptors (or the Eastern conference winner) have home court advantage for the finals?
My understanding was the team with the better record in the 2018-19 NBA season would have the extra game.
Thanks for keeping us calm and informed.
A: Yep. Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, 5 and 7 are here. And would have been in Milwaukee had the Bucks won. Milwaukee and Toronto both had better regular season records than the Warriors.
Q: Hi Doug. I sure hope that as this is being read on Sunday that game 7 is not needed! I have a theory about Fred’s turnaround. Almost certainly his mind/emotions were naturally worried that his wife would go into spontaneous labour while he was away and that he would miss the delivery. That is a sure way to lose bonus points at home as well. Once Fred Jr arrived he was able to relax about that. Anyway let’s keep enjoying the best season ever!
Mike k London
A: That probably has something to do with it, as does the fact that the adrenaline of no sleep and lots of joy coupled with stress somehow helped him just play and not think.
Full credit to orginal post, courtesy of: https://www.thestar.com/sports/doug_smiths_sports_blog/2019/05/26/a-raptors-night-for-the-people–and–of-course–the-mail.html