Sports

NBA: Toronto Raptors lose to Brooklyn Nets, Foot Locker employees in Game 7

You've got to give Jason Kidd credit. He only had to pay $25,000 to buy the series, and that’s a pretty reasonable tag.

No joke, the Toronto Raptors could have made it easier on themselves.

Maybe then they'd have the honour of facing the Miami Heat in Round 2, and wouldn't that be the awful definition of irony? You struggle through seven games against a group of entitled, once-important, decade-ago All-Stars only to win and draw their evil twins as a main course. The Miami Heat's threesome – which includes the floppiest of the floppy LeBron James, the always lunging and collapsing Dwayne Wade, and former Toronto Raptor-turned-paper weight Chris Bosh – is version 2.0 of Brooklyn, like the Nets' Monstar clones.

The Raptors could have made it easier on themselves, admittedly, by playing better more often than they did. Their game 7 performance was far from exemplary – there were massive holes and blackouts between Quarters 1 and 4, and when Kyle Lowry wasn’t on the floor it was like nobody was. Even Amir Johnson’s double-double went unnoticed to the plain eye. We only knew about it as viewers because Rod Black brought it up every two seconds, as Rod Black does with any stat when he sees he has a chance to prove his worth to Canada’s sports leader.

Every losing team has to hold themselves accountable before they hold the officials accountable. The Toronto Raptors are no different. If they didn’t want the refs to be a factor, they should have scored more.

Or, maybe they could have done what Jason Kidd did.

Maybe the Raptors could have whined about the officiating, called out the other guys for something they were blatantly doing so they’d get sympathy’s first dibs. It would have only cost them $25,000, and then those Foot Locker employees would have given them a break.

But no, that wouldn’t have happened. The Raptors aren’t established. The Raptors haven’t paid their dues, in that classically idiotic athletic sense. When the Raptors fall in the forest, nobody hears it. It matters to Canadians, but so what? We’ll need to remind Americans of this loss years down the road and they won’t care, in the same way you don’t care when Maple Leaf fans tell you how close they were to beating Boston in last year’s playoffs, in the same way you don’t care when Oilers or Flames or Canucks fans tell you about their playoff runs in 2006, 2004, and 2011, respectively.

If you didn’t win, you didn’t win. You don’t get credit on Wikipedia, and it’s like you never even existed.

(That’s why ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has been so tremendous, and so engaging. Athletes who were so important, so celebified at one time – guys like Bo Jackson and Marcus Dupree, big events like the 1983 NFL Draft and the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase – only exist because someone’s left to tell their story, still. But young fans don’t know who they are. We weren’t around for them and we never watched them. We need a reminder from folks a lot older than us, and even then we’ll just smile at them and forget about it in 30 minutes. That’s why we debate whether LeBron is better than Michael or whether Tiger is better than Nicklaus… of course they’re not, but everyone wants to believe they’re witness to the greatest.)

As soon as the game was over – with Lowry lying on his back and Kevin Garnett taunting him from 6.5 feet above like the class act he is – the Raptors’ 2014 season vanished from record.

You know by Monday, Stephen A. Smith will be talking about how it was a foregone conclusion that "Deron Williams and those boys" were going to win. Skip Bayless will skipright over the series because he didn’t have a backup script prepared. Those two have been thinking about a Brooklyn v. Miami situation since the playoffs started. They can't talk about anything if they couldn't read about it somewhere else first – Skip Bayless still think Robert Griffin III is a better quarterback than Russell Wilson, after all.

Columnists around America can finally click 'Publish' on those drafts they wrote before today’s tip-off, their poetic waxings about Bron-Bron and Paul Pierce finally ready to be Tweeted. Bill Simmons can compare Joe Johnson and Garnett to some scene from Almost Famous, or whatever he does.

This series has handed to Brooklyn. It wasn’t a conspiracy and I don’t think the league wanted Brooklyn to win. I’ve never thought that about any league and I hate that argument. But this one was a joke, and a joke isn’t a surprise anymore. It’s just what basketball has become.

It’s diva-dominated. It’s a pastime. It’s floppy because it’s just floppy, most of the time unintentionally – do you know how hard it is to fall on a hard court and not look like an idiot doing so? And can you think of another league that just ignores its own rules like the NBA ignores double dribbling and travelling? Imagine an NHL ref not blowing offside down because the player was close enough, or an NFL ref giving the kicker the field goal because he would have made it with friendlier wind.

But there’s a good ending to this whole thing. Eventually, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will have played 10 years and they’ll get the benefit of every call the way Garnett, Johnson, Pierce, and Williams do right now.

Unfortunately though, they’ll already be out of Toronto by then.

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