Each time the Toronto Raptors make it to the NBA playoffs their bar of hope goes higher. Their fans get ecstatic. Everyone feels that this year is their year. It’s their time… at least to win a postseason series. But then reality hits them in the face.
Reality in its 2016 edition was the Indiana Pacers and their defense, beating the Raptors 100-90 despite the early atmosphere in Jurassic Park, the record breaking season for the franchise and having home court advantage. Paul George caught fire in the second half, finishing with 33 points. The Raptors shot just 38% from the field and 21.1% from beyond the arc. Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 8-for-32 from the field, while Jonas Valanciunas was 4-for-14. Only 37 combined points from them, while shooting only 68.4% from the line (had 38 attempts, which is a very good number). Not the recipe for playoff success.
But this is nothing new for the Raptors, who are in the playoffs for the 8th time in franchise history. Only once have they actually won a series, back in 2001, when Vince Carter was the most impressive high flier in the NBA. Those Raptors beat the Knicks 3-2 in the first round before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia 76ers. Things didn’t get much better since then.
The Raptors went on to lose in 2002 against the Detroit Pistons in five games. In 2007 and 2008 they lost in the first round to, winning three games combined in both years. Then came the long time without a postseason appearance until Masai Ujiri came and traded away Rudy Gay. Patrick Patterson wrote a nice piece about it in the Players Tribune. But The North keeps disappointing.
The last two years have been a perfect example of things going wrong in the playoffs. In 2014 the Raptors won a franchise record 48 games, but lost in seven to the old Brooklyn Nets. In 2015 they improved that regular season record by one win. They had home court advantage against the Washington Wizards, a team they dominated in the regular season. They lost in four games. A sweep.
This season? Another record. They won 56 times. They’re facing the Pacers, a team that needed the final week of the season to clinch their playoff spot. Home court. Experience. A better team than ever before. And then they go on and lose the opening game at home. Not disaster, but the building stone in one. Someone on the Pacers said the Raptors were a team they matchup well with. A soft number 2 seed. That someone seems to know what he’s talking about.