By G Moniy
HHV Sports Staff Writer
Late, this afternoon, the 2018 NBA Playoffs officially start, and the first game, from the East, is the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards, a minor rivalry. Back in 2015, the Raptors were swept by Washington. A lot has changed, over the past three years, though.
Led by a focused DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors came into the 2017-2018 season as men on a mission. Their defense was much improved and their bench is way beyond deep. All of this allowed the Raptors to be the winners of the Cavs/Celtics debate.
However, all of that was the regular season, and not the playoffs, where the Raptors are known to fail. This season, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry came together, focused on being clutch. All season long, the Raptors went overlooked, even as they beat James Harden’s Rockets.
But, as soon as the Raptors began to get their props, they fell apart, as they blew a 15-point lead, during their game against the Cavaliers, on ESPN. Before that game, the Raptors had a five game lead on the first seed, but after that game, where they struggled, the Boston Celtics closed the gap to two. The Raptors were gifted from the high heavens, as Kyrie Irving went down with a season-ending injury.
A previous HHV Sports article was trashed, on Twitter, as they claimed the article said the Celtics would’ve clinched first, if Kyrie Irving didn’t go down. That wasn’t quite what homie meant, but it’s true, because the Raptors clearly choked away the Cleveland game, even though they won a later game against them. The Kyrie injury left an easy path for the Raptors, who also lost to his Celtics, during that run.
With the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard spoke out about being snubbed, a lot of people on Twitter said that, actually DeMar DeRozan is more snubbed than him. Here’s facts, though, the East is much easier than the West, but the Raptors have proven to have trouble against the Nets and Wizards. In 2016, they broke through, and 2017’s loss was understandable.
This year’s loss won’t be understandable, as the Cleveland Cavaliers are more vulnerable than ever before, and likely to face Toronto in the second round. Remember, last year, Milwaukee gave the Raptors a run for their money, before Cleveland swept them. Coming into this year’s playoffs, DeMar DeRozan has to prove the Raptors are who they say they are.
DeMar DeRozan, regardless of going to the NBA Finals, need to beat Cleveland, in the playoffs. Not only would it be a classic series, but DeRozan would fully explain his hype, with that win. As LeBron is getting older, DeRozan would gain props as the man who took him out, but it has to happen, there can’t be any slip-ups, against the Wizards, it has to be an in-and-out series, like it should be.
Already, the Raptors squandered a chance at 60 wins, even though they still set a franchise record. The Raptors definitely have both the potential and the firepower to sweep the Wizards, and are capable of beating the Cavs, but the Philadelphia 76ers are a problem, and they could upset Boston, in the second round. Toronto, granted they beat Cleveland, should play in the Finals, but they have to prove themselves.
Once that happens and Kyle Lowry backs DeRozan up, in the playoffs, DeMar DeRozan and his Raptors will be the league’s most-respected.
Watch highlights of Raptors vs. Cavs below:
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