The second half of the Blue Jays’ 2015 season was unforgettable for the diehards around the country. The Jays captured their first A.L East crown in the wildcard era, and brought back a stiff pennant race to the city. Prior to the postseason ever beginning, the city of Toronto hadn’t witnessed a professional team win a playoff series since the Maple Leafs defeated the Ottawa Senators in seven games in 2004.
In contrast, Canada’s favorite basketball team is also sustaining a stellar season themselves. After hosting a successful All-Star Weekend that featured a fascinated Slum-Dunk contest, as well as an abundance of points in Sunday night’s All-Star game. It appears that the interest of basketball in Canada is growing at an all-time high.
Add the fact that the Raptors hold claim to the second best record in the Eastern Conference, Toronto has a chance to do something very special this spring. Let’s face it, the Raptors are the most popular team in Toronto right now. When the playoffs begin in April, Raptors’ fever is going to be everywhere.
The Blue Jays, who are receiving high expectations after last year’s ALCS run, will be playing too early in their season to draw enough interest. The Maple Leafs on the other hand, will be in full swing for the Austin Mathews sweepstakes, in an attempt to collect the #1 overall pick in the NHL Draft. So with that being said, all the attention will be fully on the Raptors’ playoff run, as they’ll try to finally make it past the first round and get into the Conference Finals for the first time in their history.
If that’s accomplished, then Toronto will be gunning for a spot in the NBA Finals by the early June. Remember in years past when Maple Leafs Square turned into Jurassic Park for the playoff run? As thousands of fans flocked to the area to watch the playoff games on big TV’s outside? That was only the first round of action and if done again, the numbers will soon increase.
This is the NBA, a star-studded league that’s extremely arduous to win if you don’t have a major star on your roster; for instance Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James, the list goes on and on. However, it makes it more difficult to take a playoff series when you can’t win your home games. In the Raptors’ case, their last six home playoff games, they’ve gone 2-4. Considering Toronto is still in the hunt for home court throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoffs, taking care of your business at home is a must to go deep into May and June.
With the type of year the Raptors are having, plus the revamped Canada Men’s Basketball team quest for an Olympic qualifier. The sport of basketball is steadily on the rise in Canada and with additional success has a chance to explode.
There’s an opportunity that the Raptors’ following will expand more than the Blue Jays, due to the MLB postseason being shorter than the NBA’s. Nevertheless, the opportunity is there for the Raptors and it’s essential they finish the job. There’s no more excuses. Franchise players such as Kyle Lowry is already 29, DeRozen is now 26. By no means is the championship window closing, but the competition within the Eastern Conference is immensely improving. This might be Toronto’s best shot.