The Toronto Raptors haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and have just one playoff series win in the franchise’s 19-year history.
Needless to say, fans in Toronto are pretty stoked about this year’s Raptors squad (43-32), which is third in the Eatsern Conference.”
“We walk around the city, and there’s just a buzz about us,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said on The Morning Show. “They want to see us do well, and we want to do well for the fan base. It’s been a long time since they had a chance to cheer for a team in the playoffs and cheer for a team that can do some damage in the playoffs. I think they look forward to it. The energy level is unbelievable right now in the building and the city.”
If the playoffs started today, Toronto would face Washington in the first round. Lowry, however, said the team hasn’t even thought about that. After all, Chicago, the 4-seed, is also 43-32, and Brooklyn (40-34), the 5-seed, is just two-and-a-half-games back in the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“We can’t (look ahead),” Lowry said. “We’re in a battle right now with Chicago, and Brooklyn’s playing extremely well. We’ve got a look at every single day, every single game, (and) get prepared for the next opponent.”
Whichever team they face in the playoffs, the Raptors will be ready – on both ends of the floor. They’re the rare team ranked in the top 10 in the league in both offense and defense.
Defense, however, is the team’s calling card.
“Honestly, I think we’re such a defensive-minded team that that’s where we’re most dangerous,” Lowry said. “Coach (Dwane) Casey and the staff, they really preach a lot on defense, so I think we’re very dangerous on defense. Offense, I think we can get (by) on that, but defense wins games.”
While few people expected a strong year for Toronto, Lowry isn’t all that surprised by the team’s success. The goal from the start of the season was to make the playoffs, especially with players such as DeMar DeRozan, who leads the team with 22.8 points per game, and, yes, Lowry, who averages 17.4 points, 7.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
Lowry, 28, also brings toughness to Toronto. If he gets pushed, he’s not afraid to push back.
“You can’t be afraid of anything,” he said. “If someone pushes you, you got to have the ability to push back – and do it in the right way and be smart about it. For me, I know my teammates live off what I do, and I can’t let anyone push me around. If I let somebody push me around, (they’ll push my teammates around).”
While everyone assumed the East would be a two-man race between Miami and Indiana, that is no longer necessarily the case. Indiana went 8-10 in March, while the Heat endured a rough 5-8 stretch before winning four straight.
Brandon Tierney asked if the Heat look vulnerable. That wasn’t a hard question for Lowry to answer, especially since the Heat are 4-0 against Toronto this season.
“I don’t think so,” Lowry said. “They still got LeBron James at the end of the day. When you got that man, he’s pretty good.”