Raptors raise championship banner but few hopes of another

Raptors raise championship banner but few hopes of another
TORONTO (Reuters) - Before the start of a new NBA campaign on Tuesday the Toronto Raptors and their fans spent the final few moments before tip-off basking in last season’s glory by unfurling a championship banner and collecting diamond encrusted rings.

Oct 22, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia s championship ring on display at halftime during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto defeated New Orleans in overtime. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Then they went to work.

The Raptors needed to put in overtime to see off the New Orleans Pelicans 130-122 but the result was enough to keep the party rolling a little while longer.

Rarely in sport has so little been expected from a team that just four months ago accomplished so much, bringing an NBA championship to Canada for the first time.

In June nearly 2 million fans clogged Toronto streets for a victory parade but on Tuesday, as the banner was hoisted to the rafters, few hopes were being raised along with it.

“One last nice celebration for everybody,” summed up Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “I think it is cool to have that piece of history certainly for this generation and for the next generation that every time they come in to a game or event and they are going to look up and see that (banner).”

There is little talk of a championship repeat in the NBA’s most northern outpost, in a matter of weeks fans have lowered the bar and their expectations to the point where simply making the playoffs would be an acceptable result.

Many oddsmakers have set the defending champions a 30-1 longshot to retain their crown with a dozen or more teams ranked ahead of them.

That is what happens in the NBA when a team loses its best player like Toronto did when finals MVP Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.
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