Movin’ On Up !

Pascal Siakam was Spicy in the 4th quarter. photo and story by A. Dorcely

Before anyone ask. Yes, I did sanitize my hands before I wrote this article. Sign of the times. I couldn’t help it. Covid jokes! But nothing was funny when the Toronto Raptors played the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Especially, not to Kevin Durant. I’ll go into that a bit more as this article progresses. Many moves and movements have been made to make this NBA season come to fruition. One of which I’ve indicated before was that of the Toronto Raptors move to Tampa. Which makes it hard for me to not refer to them as the Tampa Raptors for this season and since Tom Brady won the Super Bowl they maybe known as the Tompa Raptors for the rest of the season if Tampa Bay’s mayor has any say in the matter(Super Bowl hadn’t taken place yet when this was being drafted). Imagine that!!!

As I go to watch tonight’s Raptors’ game versus the Nets I contemplated on what I should call my article.  I’m coming up with such titles as Fred VanDamn(as in action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme) or Fred The Godsend(as in rapper Fred The Godson who died of Covid). The reason for this is VanVleet decided to “bet on his skills” prior to this season and it paid off during the summer as he was awarded the largest contract in NBA history for an undrafted free agent. In Toronto’s last game the contract awarded spoke volumes as he scored a franchise record 54 points. VanVleet put the rest of the league on notice.  So for me knowing that athletes can at times continue being in such a zone from one game to the next I was making a preemptive strike mentally by coming up with a title that might fit another game such as that.  

Movin’ On Up is what I obviously ended up using though.  This was the title of a theme song to The Jeffersons. I might be dating myself here. I don’t want to give away too much. But you can feel free to do some more research on the song if you like. VanVleet is not moving on up on his own. The Raptors as a whole have been putting a string of victories together. Now they’re facing the Brooklyn Nets who are also atop a short list of teams considered to be elite in the NBA because of personnel upgrades. At this time I want to take time out to wish you and your family continued strength and health.

 Now back to our scheduled programming. Prior to the start of the game it was made known that because of Covid protocols Kevin Durant would not be starting the contest with more information to follow. Toronto got off to a fast start. Leading  7-0 early on. Kyrie Irving finally put the Nets on the board at the 10:39 mark. But the lead only grew from there to 12-4 at 9:24 in first when Fred VanVleet made his first basket. Brooklyn managed to get the score to 19-11 with about six minutes left in the quarter. At 4:13 left in the first quarter Kevin Durant checked into the game. Not too long after Chris Boucher made a great close out block on a three point attempt from the baseline by Jeff Green. The first quarter ended with the score 34-23 favoring the Raptors.

The start of the second quarter included more sloppy play from the Nets that had led to 17 fastbreak points by Toronto so far. At 10:07 the score was 44-27 as the Raptors continued an offensive surge with Norman Powell leading the way. But anyone who knows basketball knows it’s a game of runs. So with Brooklyn being an offensive juggernaut and their newly formed big three; the Raptors went into the half ahead only by 4, 67-63. I asked Coach Nurse about the run that was spearheaded by an offensive foul called on a pick towards the end of half. He said, “that it contributed to the herky jerkey flow of the game and that it took Toronto a while to get back in rhythm.”

Brooklyn was able to capture the lead early in the 3rd quarter. With some questionable calls in the second continuing to plague Toronto in the 3rd. VanVleet earned a technical followed by Coach Nurse respectively. Afterwards Kevin Durant was called for his fourth and fifth foul in about a 30 second time span. The 5th was challenged and reversed. Durant went to the bench anyway to prevent him from picking up that 5th foul again during the quarter. While on the bench he was informed that his night was over do to Covid protocol.                             

This obviously changed the outlook of the game and the offensive strategy of the Nets as well as the defensive strategy of Toronto. Coach Nurse was now able to use some zone while trapping the ball out of Kyrie Irving’s hands and James Harden’s clutches. The Raptors led by 2, 92-90 going into the fourth. At the 9:00 minute mark in the fourth Brooklyn took the lead by 2.  As the fourth quarter continued both teams showed their offensive prowess as the lead changed hands. But Siakam using his size advantage and Lowry with his “Nelly” look(bandaid under his right eye) proved to be too much for the Nets. The Raptors won the game 123-117. Allowing Toronto to once again “Move On Up” in the East side. The Eastern Conference standings that is!