Saturday , Apr , 21 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Playoffs Live: Toronto Versus Vince Carter, It’s Oh-So Personal.

Hoopsvibe presents the Playoffs live. For select playoff games, the hoopsvibe blog will provide live coverage. We begin with Vince Carter versus Canada. Read about the chaotic atmosphere of hate spilling on Carter….

 “It’s over. It’s over,” yelled the TNT panel.

Vince Carter had just won the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. On his last dunk, he pushed his entire forearm through the hoop. After witnessing this feat the crowd fell silent; for once, momentarily, Charles Barkley was speechless.

Carter strutted and pranced around the court, basking in the props given by fans, players, and the media.

This was the peak for Carter, when he received unconditional love from everyone. And Toronto, his home team, gave him the most love.

After all, Carter brought the Raptors back. His aerial dynamics gave the team a global identity after they stumbled in the late nineties.

But ‘Air Canada’ soon crashed on the runway. He stopped playing hard. The Raptors missed the playoffs. Then he requested a trade, destroying the franchise.

Toronto fans felt betrayed. Like a jilted lover they despised Carter, especially when he publicly admitted to not trying his hardest.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Three years later, the Raptors have recovered, winning the Atlantic Division. But the fans still want blood.

Today, Toronto fans are hoping for that blood. The Raptors are meeting the Nets in game one of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Two hours before the game, Raptor fans start chanting: “VC sucks. VC sucks.” Twenty thousand fans unified in their hatred of Carter.

You can barely hear the Toronto pre-game show. Carter’s picture appears on the teleprompter. Fans, hanging around the perimeter of the broadcast booth, immediately drown out the commentators by yelling: “Let’s go Raptors” and “VC sucks.”

This game is personal. Starting line-ups are announced. Carter is booed ferociously. He’s jeered each time he touches the rock.

But the Raptors look nervous and fall behind. Chris Bosh picks up some early fouls. The Nets are scoring down low and running off of several Raptor turnovers. At halftime, Toronto leads 51-41. Carter has been okay, hitting 3 of 9 shots for 7 points.

The second half begins. …

The Raptors start with an impressive 8-0 run. Bosh hits a jumper and on another possession gets to the free-throw line on a tough, aggressive move. He nails both free-throws. New Jersey’s lead is dwindling.

Carter picks up two quick fouls and is sent to the bench. The stadium erupts in a chorus of boos. 

But Carter’s foul trouble is irrelevant. Richard Jefferson, the underrated small forward, is on the mark. He’s getting to the rim, converting easy baskets.

New Jersey’s lead stays at ten points for most of the third quarter. The Raptors are trying to make a run, but keep falling short.

T.J. Ford is talking to his teammates in attempt to lift the Raptors’ energy. No luck. Bosh misses a two-foot lay-up. The Nets bigs’, Mikki Moore and Jason Collins, are dominating the glass.

Kris Humphries, a rugged power forward, enters the game for Toronto.  He should bring some energy and provide rebounding.

The Nets lead 78-65. 12 minutes left to play.

Carter’s back in the game for the start of the fourth quarter. The booing resumes. The Nets call a timeout, 9 minutes left. New Jersey’s leading 90-80.

Vince’s mom, Michelle, is at the game, sitting courtside. She conducts an interview and seems amused by the hate directed towards her son. Mrs. Carter brushes off the atmosphere, comparing it to a Duke and North Carolina game.

Jose Calderon is hot. He hits a pair of three-pointers and a lay-up. The stadium erupts. The lead is suddenly just six points.

The Nets have stagnated. They’re not getting any easy buckets. They’re not stopping anybody. And the Raptors are all over the glass.

Chris Bosh is hot-and-cold. He’s great when going to the basket and attacking the defense. But he misses when fading away because Moore has a long body and amazing wing-span.

New Jersey is up three points with seconds left. Carter is fouled. V.C. splits his free throws, connecting on one of two.

The miss doesn’t matter. The game ends. The Nets win by a score of 96-91. 

Toronto’s fans are very quiet-silent, in fact. The chants are no more. Carter struggled from the floor, but contributed down the stretch.  Fans will have to wait until game 2 for revenge.

Oly Sandor is hoopsvibe’s NBA analyst. Click here to read more of his blog.