In the midst of a history making playoff run, the Toronto Raptors are also proving that home court advantage is still a thing.
Outside of football, and possibly soccer, home court advantage has seemed to take a less and less important role in professional sports these days.
Gone are the days of specific quirks and architecture of arenas and stadiums, replaced by cookie cutter designs that make it feel as if every game is played in the same building, just with different colour schemes. Some even wind up simply being replaced within as recently as 20 years from each other, killing any real sense of legacy, tradition, or nostalgia to the common fan.
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It’s tough to say “protect this house”, when even your team abandons it for new real estate once a generation or so.
Even the mentality of fans has slowly begun to wear away with the ever more interconnected society we now live in. The chants and shouts are there, but much like when everything else in life is going well, fans seem to become much more easily deflated and distracted once their team gets down a few runs or possessions.
Ironically, one can argue that the responsibility of “getting the crowd going” has somewhat shifted from slightly inebriated men and women in the stands, to the multi-million dollar athletes they have spent a week’s worth of pay for one night of entertainment.
Some of these factors, combined with the head first dive into the pool of analytics that this generation of fans and pros alike can dive into, has almost conclusively proven that the long-standing belief of “home court advantage” is a mirage.
But then you get some sports, and some teams, that continue to fly in the face of raw data and schools of thought.
Then you have the Toronto Raptors.
In what has become one of the more fascinating case studies of this topic, our very own Toronto Raptors in one playoff run have grown from a team that seemed to follow the blueprint, to one that now defies it.
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After failing to win the first game at home in their first two rounds, they would go on not to lose a single game at home for the rest of those rounds.
In fact, the only time they have lost at home during this run has been those two games, not even the mighty Cavaliers have been able to figure out “We The Other” at home.
Multiple factors can be considered: sleeping in your own bed, no travel time, the fact that basketball can be such a personal experience with fans literally sitting on the court cheering you on, it can all have an affect on a guy when he hears people cheering for them.
That’s the beauty of basketball, now more than ever we have seen players and coaches interact with fans while the game is happening, you can’t deny that, for better or worse, it affects these guys.
Thankfully for Toronto fans, this team has now learned to embrace the energy of its crowds, rather than being intimidated by it.
With the team now facing a possible last stand, regardless of how the series works out, it would be a fitting tribute to the support of the home crowd that players and staff alike have attributed to their uplifting play in Games 3 and 4.
Torontonians deserve a victory tonight as the icing on the cake of a successful season.
We may have all been living through a Greek tragedy of sorts watching this series, almost certain of the outcome.
But I couldn’t think of a more beautiful death then to land just one more haymaker on the King, before Cleveland gets their hearts broken in the finals once again, in pursuit of ending a 50 year championship drought.