The Toronto Raptors are once again playing with their food. It could cost them if their series with the Orlando Magic stretches longer.
The Raptors have once again squanderhome-court advantage in a painful way, giving the upper hand to their undeserving opponent yet again.
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
The 2019 playoffs are the sixth straight that the Raptors have entered as the higher seed, and in five of those six seasons, they lost game one.
Only once in the Masai Ujiri era has the opening round gone according to plan, where the Raptors could enjoy a “let’s put them away” game two, and not a back-against-the-wall pressure cooker.
Why does it matter that the Raptors constantly play more games than they should?
They’ve won more of those opening rounds series than they’ve lost after all, the game one hole hasn’t seemed to cost them that much.
But it’s not their opening round chances that take a hit when the Raptors lose these games.
It’s their title chances.
In this decade, over half of the teams who made the NBA final swept their first round series.
78 per cent of those teams played at most five games.
It may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but every one of these April games counts in May when the league and series begin to play every other day.
Unsure if it really matters? Just look at Lebron James’ career.
James has already logged 46 thousand minutes in his career, and his eight straight finals appearances with two different franchises, one of the most remarkable stats in NBA history.
In those eight straight finals runs, Lebron’s team’s average first round series length was 4.6 games.
Five sweeps, two five-gamers, and last year’s seven-game surprise with the Indiana Pacers.
The Raptors in the same period of time? Their average first-round series length is 6 games.
That isn’t just a 1.4 game difference in rest. When you factor in the NBA’s prolonged first-round playoff schedule, it’s an average of 4.2 additional off days, time for Lebron’s teams to recharge and rehab any licks and bruises they might have picked up in the previous series.
Toronto fans don’t need to be reminded that those Lebron teams handily defeated them each of the last three years – more often than not with another sweep, ensuring they were even more rested for the next round.
LeBron may not be lurking around the corner, but the problem still remains – the Raptors will play a very competitive Philly or Brooklyn team next, and need to ensure that they enter that series as rested as possible.
Failing to finish Orlando in five could arguably be more damning to their title chances than anything any Raptor could do on the court – especially if the Bucks continue to take care of business as they have been, winning their first game by 35 points.
The road to the NBA championship goes through Milwaukee, and that potential series would be a dog-fight if all things were equal.
But if Toronto were to spot Milwaukee a few games of rest, that dog-fight could quickly turn into a massacre.
If the Raptors truly have dreams of June basketball, they need to stop playing with their food.
They have the talent – they’re the better team.
Play like it.