The Toronto Raptors think they’re a pretty big deal — or at least becoming even more of one.
The Toronto Raptors are probably right.
Consider that the Raptors were the same team that took the defending champion Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Consider that the Raptors are 14-6, good enough to be tied for first place in the East (with the 13-5 Cavs, no less).
And consider that the Raptors are coming off the biggest win in franchise history (128-84 over Atlanta) entering Monday’s home game against those very Cavs.
The same Cavs, of course, who have defeated the Raptors twice already this season.
The same Cavs, of course, who have lost three straight.
So it’s safe to say LeBron James and friends are angry. Opponents usually don’t like LeBron and friends when they’re angry.
Right, Raptors coach Dwane Casey?
Right, Casey told reporters immediately after the hammer job of the Hawks.
“You reminded me we have a team coming in Monday. You wouldn’t let me enjoy this game,” Casey said with a smile.
Casey knows the Raptors’ recent history against the Cavs. He knows the Cavs often seem to figure out how to overcome the Raptors’ brilliant backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. He knows the Cavs could use a statement win.
Then again, the Raptors could use one of those wins, too.
“They’re going to be a desperate team. “We’re a desperate team,” Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll told the media. “We’ve lost to them twice this season and we want to kinda show we’re a top team too.”
Or as Cavs center Tristan Thompson said after the loss at Chicago on Friday, the Raptors undoubtedly “want to send a message.”
Whoever wins this game won’t be crowned champions. Whoever wins may not even win the East. Heck, this doesn’t guarantee anything other than first place in the conference for a night — and with the way the early season is going, it may truly only be for one night.
“It’s a big picture, a long season. There will be ups and downs,” Casey said. “You can’t relax in this league. There’s a thin line between the penthouse and the outhouse. It’s something that I never forget. I’ve been in it too long, seen too much.”
What Casey would love to see now is just one victory, finally, over the opponent that seems to be standing in his team’s way.
It may be a long season, but for the Raptors, a win over the Cavs would make the journey a little bit nicer.