Toronto Raptors playoff fever hits the city
The Toronto Raptors playoff quest begins Saturday afternoon with a date against the Brooklyn Nets at the Air Canada Centre, and the hype machine is already in full effect. Perhaps it's because the Leafs imploded and missed the post-season, or perhaps it's because this is the Raptors' first playoff appearance in six years, or perhaps it's just because Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) does promotion so well (winning is another matter altogether, of course). Hiring Drake as an ambassador looks like a pretty good move right now. He might even help to bring a nightclub to the ACC, if you can believe it.
So while the team has already heard some complaining about the price of playoff tickets -- on average the highest in the NBA -- what most of the city is talking about is just how exciting it is to be in the playoffs. While the Leafs will always be the biggest ticket in town, don't be surprised to see our basketball team acquire a massive bandwagon this year, some of whom might even remain fans.
One lesson that MLSE learned from the Leafs' dramatic (but ultimately tragic) seven game series with Boston last year is that converting Maple Leaf Square outside the ACC into a public viewing zone is a great way to generate excitement for a playoff run. Enter Party in the Square, which will bring thousands to the ACC before home games to watch the action on the massive screen that adorns the west side of the arena.
The promotional video the team recently released hasn't hurt the excitement generation, either. Riffing at least a little on Game of Thrones, the promotional spot features cool shots of Toronto mixed with game action and, most of all, dunks. It's hard to watch it and not get at least a bit excited if you're at least a casual fan.
For all the optimism that greets the team heading into its first game against the Nets, this is going to be one tough series, with the eventual winner likely destined to take on Miami in the second round. But perhaps that's actually a really good thing. Super tight basketball games with high drama in the last couple minutes of play are great for fans.
Photo by Howard Yang in the blogTO Flickr pool.