Toronto Raptors fans are gearing up for a big night of basketball as the team takes a second shot at winning its first NBA Finals title.
The Raps are in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday for Game 6 against the Golden State Warriors.
Toronto’s single-point loss in Game 5 at home on Monday hasn’t dampened enthusiasm at Jurassic Park, the fan zone outside Scotiabank Arena, where Raptors devotees started lining up through a rain-soaked night.
Good morning from Jurassic Park. Raining again out here. Forecast not looking good <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheNorth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/iJiYmxrz73″>pic.twitter.com/iJiYmxrz73</a>
The fans arrived just before midnight and rigged up a makeshift tent — “a MacGyver-type scheme” as they call it — to try to stay dry:
Making friends in Jurassic ‘camp’. These guys let me in their makeshift shelter as they await game 6 in ‘The 6ix’ <a href=”https://t.co/zyZfXvzFvi”>pic.twitter.com/zyZfXvzFvi</a>
They are definitely not alone in their excitement. Officials in Toronto are closing several busy downtown streets around Jurassic Park in anticipation of an overflow crowd. Even Toronto Mayor John Tory has busted out his lucky jacket for the day:
Mayor <a href=”https://twitter.com/JohnTory?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JohnTory</a> Does the ‘raptorfoot’ with some fans at Jurassic Park <a href=”https://t.co/iCvIyV3Y89″>pic.twitter.com/iCvIyV3Y89</a>
In Montreal — Toronto’s long-time sworn hockey rival — authorities are shutting down two city blocks so fans can gather to cheer on the Raps.
The Raptors have a chance to cement their place in Canadian sports lore.
Up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series against a Warriors team that has battled its way to the finals in five consecutive years, Toronto could win its first title in the franchise’s 24-year history.
But the Raps will need big performances from their shooters and bench personnel. Darnell VanVleet, elder brother of Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, told CBC News Network that his sibling is “locked in” for tonight.
“I think the team is ready,” he said. “We let two games get away from us that I think we had.
“I think the guys are ready to celebrate in Oracle [Arena] tonight.”
VanVleet’s hometown of Rockford, Ill., will be cheering along with his family tonight. It’s the only American city with its own version of Jurassic Park.
Boris Siakam, eldest sibling of Raps power forward Pascal Siakam, said his brother is ready for the pressure of trying to beat the Warriors on their home turf.
“Nothing really fazes him. He wants to be a champion and actually believes he will be,” Boris said in an interview from Bowling Green, Ky.
Boris said Pascal wants to win for their dad, who was killed in a vehicle collision in 2014.
“My dad always had a dream that one of his children would play in the NBA, and Pascal made that come true.”
Jay = dedicated <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Raptors?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Raptors</a> fan He says he rubs his tattoo for good luck <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheNorth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/F99cCRrcUn”>pic.twitter.com/F99cCRrcUn</a>
But the stakes have never been higher for the Warriors. After 47 seasons, tonight’s game will be the last in the team’s storied arena in Oakland.
For some Golden State supporters, Game 6 will be a grudge match. Raptors fans made headlines earlier this week after some cheered when Warriors superstar Kevin Durant went down with an injury. There’s also the video of people heckling Stephen Curry’s parents at their Toronto hotel.