As a die-hard Toronto Raptors fan it has been extremely difficult to shake that bitter taste of failure and disappointment of losing a playoff series. After all, this Raptors team was only two wins away from an NBA Finals, something that three years ago no fan would have even dreamed of. But, after having a week or so to digest and process the loss it is easy to look back at this season with pride. To have a team that expects to go to the NBA Finals when LeBron James is in your conference is incredulous. A team that walked all over the Eastern Conference and shed its so-called playoff demons with not one but two Game 7 wins. A team that finally took a step forward. Let’s call a spade a spade; this was the most successful season in Toronto Raptors franchise history.
The 2015-2016 season was a year of firsts for the Toronto Raptors. The first time Toronto hosted an All-Star Game; first time the Raptors had two All-Stars in the same game; first game 7 playoff win; first ever conference finals and most importantly, the first time that the Toronto Raptors franchise believed that they could win an NBA title. Yes, the season ended in bitter disappointment losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Conference Finals, but think about the incredible achievement it was to make it that far.
They set a new record for regular season wins, road wins, home wins and playoff wins. This franchise has been around for over 20 years and had never made it past the second round. It has been a perennial bottom dweller within the NBA; even in recent years when they have had good seasons it can easily be argued that they have been the biggest disappointment in the playoffs. This team has sparked the imagination of not only people of Toronto, but of Canada as a whole. Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job at putting this team together, a team that has a combination of skill and grit, something that the Toronto fans can embrace with open arms. The draw-dropping drunks from Terrence Ross, dazzling scoring from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, defensive prowess of Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph along with the physical monsters in the middle Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo. This team had it all, or at least almost had it all.
These playoffs had some incredible moments that will be remembered in franchise history. From Bismack Biyombo’s astonishing 26 rebound game in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland, which set a franchise record for rebounds in a single game, cementing himself in Toronto Raptors folklore; to the 21-2 run in the fourth quarter of game 5 against Indiana in the first round which erased a 90-77 deficit, punctuated by the iconic breakaway dunk by rookie Norman Powell.
While the ending to this season was somewhat disappointing with four blowout losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there is no doubt that it will be remembered fondly by Toronto Raptors fans as the greatest season in franchise history.