Raptors ratchet up aggression as thinned squad continues to defend well

Title: Raptors ratchet up aggression as thinned squad continues to defend well
Date: November 12, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors’ display of resilience and defence in a wounded L.A. back-to-back.

In times of trial, we often revert to our truest selves. There is a safety and simplicity offered by that reduction, for better or for worse. But what if you don’t know what your true self is yet? In those cases, adversity can reveal it.

The Toronto Raptors are facing some hard times (daddy), and it’s showing them quite a bit about who they are, or who they can be. Down Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Patrick McCaw, they stole a game against the Lakers in an unlikely upset. One night later, fatigued and facing double-digit underdog status, they lost OG Anunoby early and still showed tremendous fight. That they didn’t pull off the sweep in Los Angeles matters less than what they can take from this: There is playable depth here, and there is a genuine identity forming.

A part of that early identity is the same one the Raptors have carried for years. It’s the identity that defined them on their accidental rise, through the most successful era in franchise history and has come to define them once again now that Kawhi Leonard has opted for shinier, if less passionate, pastures. The Raptors love being the underdogs. They are a team built of players who were slept on, disregarded or discarded. They have always seemed at their best when they’re able to play the “nobody believes in us” card. Chips on the shoulder. #UTG#BetOnYourself. It’s backwards to think that Leonard leaving the Raptors this summer helped them in any way, but it did shift them back into the role so many of these players were born to play, that of the plucky babyface fighting with fire from underneath.

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