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  (MURAT YUKSELIR/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

 

(MURAT YUKSELIR/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

The hockey fan’s guide to basketball: How to jump onto the Raptors bandwagon Add to ...

It’s been a while since a sports team not named the Leafs has generated this much hype in the city of Toronto. Thanks to their Game 5 win over Brooklyn Wednesday night, Raptormania is in full force. Hey, everyone likes a winner. So for all of you bandwagon-jumpers with no real clue about the game of basketball, here are a few tips:

IMPORTANT SIMILARITIES

  • Basketball and hockey were both invented by Canadians, or so Canadians say.
  • Both games can involve goaltending. In basketball, preventing a ball in mid-air from entering the net is a foul. In hockey, Leafs goaltending is just foul.
  • A lead is never safe in the dying minutes. In basketball, the equivalent is the six-point lead with 18.6 seconds left, because Reggie Miller once did this. In hockey – oh, hell, you remember.
  • A beer costs $14.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

  • Basketball is played on a wooden floor, instead of ice, so the dancers won’t slip and fall.
  • Dunking a basketball is similar to dunking a honey cruller, except you let go of the basketball. The rim does not roll up.
  • Basketball assists are called dimes because of informants who assisted police by making a phone call (which used to cost a dime).
  • Basketball players do not head-butt each other at the end of the game.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS

  • Refereeing in basketball is more art than science. And in art terms, it’s chucking paint cans against a wall.
  • Statistically, all two-point shots are a terrible idea. Until you make them.
  • A foul occurs every time a bad player comes within five feet of a good player.
  • The skill level of players, by height, from best to worst: average guy, tallish guy, very tall guy, freakishly tall guy, giant.

LINES TO IMPRESS MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE FRIENDS

  • They’re running too much iso (pronounced eye-so).
  • They’re getting killed by bad switches.
  • Brooklyn’s bigs can’t cope with Toronto’s pick-and-roll game.
  • Who goes to Wasaga Beach in April?
Non sequiturs to blurt when Raptors are winning
  • Kyle Lowry!
  • Coaching advantage!
  • Fourth-quarter team!
Non sequiturs to blurt when Raptors are losing
  • Hero ball
  • Experience
  • Fourth-quarter team!

THE NOVICE FAN

At a Leafs game, a novice fan will ask why a play was called offside. When the team blows a lead and gives up multiple third-period goals, fans boo.
At a Raptors game, the novice fan chants “Pizza, Pizza” in anticipation of a free, low-quality slice if the home team wins and scores 100 points or more. If the Raptors win but score fewer than 100 points, fan boos.

ABOUT THE REF

NBA basketball is, admittedly, a difficult game to ref: extremely large men moving at high speeds in very tight quarters. But it is also, arguably – maybe even inarguably – the worst refereed big-time sport around. This is because the NBA is a reputation league, a star-driven circuit where rules apply unequally based on the name of the player involved.
If you’re LeBron James, for instance, and you glide in for an easy dunk or layup, the ref automatically blows the whistle and then looks around for someone to call the foul on, even if there’s no one within 10 feet of the burly superstar. (On the flipside, LeBron has never committed a foul in his life.)
How does this apply to the Toronto Raptors? The Raps have traditionally not gotten the refs’ respect. This is not because they’re based in Canada, it’s because they’re bad – or have been, anyway, for most of their two decades of existence. Thus they get called for ticky-tack fouls while their opponents rarely seem to get whistled for roughing up the Raps, no matter how blatant the mugging,
To some degree – some, anyway – this has changed over the course of this surprising season, as the Raptors willed themselves from an apparent draft-lottery contender to first place in their division; as DeMar DeRozan earned All-Star status and the refs’ willingness to give him a call. 
Nonetheless, in this playoff series with Brooklyn, the late-game calls have generally gone the Nets’ way – the Nets, who, after all, have marquee players named KG and Pierce and Williams and Johnson.
Have the Raptors displayed enough game and grit so far to keep the refs from leaning Brooklyn’s way in the final crucial contests? That could be the series-deciding question.

With reports from Bob Levin, Mason Wright, Cathal Kelly, Joe Friesen, Greg Boyd and Michael Snider

Graphics by Murat Yukselir/The Globe and Mail

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