Tonight will serve as a big night for Toronto sports fans. The Maple Leafs take on the Boston Bruins in a game 7 matchup for all the marbles. The Raptors are looking to close out their first-round series with a win over the Orlando Magic. Both teams have the opportunity to get through to the second round. The Raptors head into game 5 with a 3-1 series lead over the Magic and are aiming to make franchise history, while Maple Leafs are looking to break their playoff "curse" in a do-or-die game 7 against the Bruins. The entire city waits in anticipation today, all fans wondering the same things. Will the Leafs beat Boston? Do the Raptors have what it takes to be NBA champions this year?
In an exhilarating series so far, the Leafs go head to head with the Boston Bruins for the last time this season and it's winner take all. Both teams have fought tooth and nail trying to get an advantage, but neither team could get it done. Tonight, they both put it all on the line - all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears poured into this season, it was for a moment like this. Game 7 against a long time rival, a game the Maple Leafs would love to win, a game Leafs fans will be watching anxiously as they await the final result.
As for their chances of winning, let me break this down. The Leafs don't have a great track record against the Boston Bruins in the playoffs and frankly, they just don't have a good playoff record at all. The last time the Maple Leafs won a playoff series and got out of the first round was in 2004. Our very own Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were just 6 years old the last time the Leafs won a series. Now, 15 years later, they finally have a chance to get them into the second round. If that 15-year drought wasn't bad enough, the last time the Leafs beat the Bruins in a playoff series was in 1959. One could say that the Leafs appear to be "cursed", and have been for quite some time. If history has told us anything it's that the Leafs and their fans are in for one hell of a ride tonight. Can the "curse" be broken? Is this the year the Leafs beat the Bruins and make it to the second round?
I think they have a good shot of making it happen this time around. This is a different Leafs team right now and they've been playing like it. They've added some new faces and have that veteran presence to go along with the young, fast and skilled core that they've had all year. The Leafs were also impressive on the road this year, finishing the season with a record of 23-12-6 as well as winning 2 out of 3 games in Boston this series, telling us they are more than capable of leaving TD Garden with a win tonight. As much as these are all positive notes, the Leafs are going to need everyone to step up. Especially guys like Tavares, Nylander, Brown and Marleau who have been pretty quiet this series. It's going to have to be a full team effort, front to back if they plan on making it through this round. But if there's any time to finally show Toronto what they're made of, that time is now.
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors headed back home Sunday night after a blowout win over the Magic to go up a franchise first 3-1 in a playoff series. Playoff Kawhi was in full force once again, dominating the court with 34 points 6 rebounds and 2 assists shooting 12 for 20 on the night. Thanks to Captain Kawhi, Spicy P, Lowry and the rest of the team, they come back to the Scotiabank Arena with the possibility of ending the series and moving on to round 2. If they can pull off a win tonight, it will be the first time in franchise history that the Raptors take a series 4-1.
This is only the Raptors 11th appearance in the postseason - but this year, they're looking like a team that could go all the way to the finals. If the Raptors play tonight as they have in the last 3 games, they shouldn't have any issues taking game 5. Since the playoffs started, Leonard has been a different beast. He has a different look in his eyes, a different attitude on the court. You can tell that he's going to unleash all that he has to get the Raptors as far as they can go. I don't think that there is anyone that can stop him right now.
Pascal Siakam continues to surprise as well. Siakam has been bringing the heat and is having an unbelievable playoff run right now. Kyle Lowry is playing like a top 5 point guard, Marc Gasol is owning the paint on both ends of the floor, Danny Green is playing like Danny Green and the bench is coming in clutch. The Raptors are also one of, if not the best defensive team in the playoffs. They're rarely giving up easy baskets and are finding ways to shut down the Magic offence, making them take difficult shots more often than not. There are a lot of ingredients in the Raptors pot and they're all the right ingredients to get them past this round and to the NBA finals.
With Kawhi leading the way he has been this year, I have a feeling that the Raptors could set multiple franchise records by the time their playoff run is done.