The Toronto Raptors legacy, which includes their seven-year playoff run is officially over. On May 10, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers. This also meant the Raptors were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Before the playoff streak ended, it was tied for first for the longest current active playoff streak with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Toronto Raptors Legacy from 2013-20
2013-14 NBA Season
The 2013-14 NBA season did not start off well for the Raptors. They had seven wins and 12 losses after a win on December 8 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Then on December 9, a trade was confirmed. The Raptors traded Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray for Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, John Salmons, and Greivis Vasquez from the Sacramento Kings. The Raptors players knew of the trade prior to their game against the Lakers according to Open Gym.
Rudy Gay was seen as the Raptors’ best player when he was traded. This might surprise people as both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry ended up with much more successful NBA careers than Gay. However, for some reason, that trade sparked the Raptors’ first playoff appearance since 2008.
Toronto Raptors Surprising 2013-14 NBA Season
DeRozan continued his impressive start to the season. He averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists, and 1.1 steals per game. At the time, these were all career-highs for DeRozan. Lowry also lifted his game. He had career-highs with 17.9 points and 7.4 assists, and 1.6 steals in the 2013-14 NBA season. These were all career-highs at the time for Lowry. He also tied a career-high with 4.8 rebounds per game.
The Raptors ranked ninth in points per game and tenth in defensive ratings. They were good enough to win the 2013-14 Atlantic Division banner. At the time it was a big deal as the Raptors had only won the Atlantic Division once prior in the 2006-07 NBA season.
The Raptors gave a valiant effort in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. It went to seven games and the Raptors had a chance to win the game with a Lowry layup. Unfortunately for Toronto, then Brooklyn Nets player Paul Pierce blocked the shot and ended the Raptors season.
This is what DeRozan said about embracing Lowry after his shot was blocked by Pierce according to the Raptors YouTube Account.
“I just told him to not worry about it. I could sleep at night knowing he took that shot you know I could live I could live with that especially Kyle taking that shot you know don’t be down on yourself that’s all I was telling him.”
There will not be much to talk about the 2014-15 NBA postseason appearance. The Raptors had a very disappointing postseason getting swept by the Washington Wizards in four games. It is important to note in that season that Lowry made his first NBA All-Star Game appearance.
2015-16 NBA Season
A Big Year for the Toronto Raptors
Besides winning the championship in 2019, this was probably the biggest year of the Raptors franchise. Just before the season began, the Raptors got a steal by trading Vazquez to get Norman Powell. Toronto also got a first-round draft pick, which they used to select OG Anunoby in 2017. For the first time in NBA history, the NBA All-Star Game was hosted outside of the United States. However, there was also a lot at stake. The Raptors had a very disappointing 2015 NBA postseason and were looking to bounce back.
NBA All-Star Game and Eastern Conference Finals Appearance
What might surprise people was that the Raptors were 26th in bench scoring that year. They were ranked fifth in the 2014-15 NBA season in points per game in bench scoring. This included having players like Lou Williams and Vasquez.
Overall, the Raptors were ranked 14th in the 2015-16 NBA season. They were much better the year previous. However, one would need to look at the defence to notice the difference between the two years. They were fifth in defensive rating in that season. As a result, both DeMar DeRozan and Lowry made the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. This was the first time there was more than one Raptors player since 2001 when Vince Carter and Antonio Davis started in the NBA All-Star Game. It also started a streak of five consecutive years where two Raptors made the NBA All-Star Game.
Ball game. Raps win! TO is off to the Conference Finals after defeating Miami in 7.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 15, 2016
The Raptors also made history in the NBA playoffs. They defeated the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat in seven games. They lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. While this would, unfortunately, start a trend of the Raptors losing against the Cavaliers, it was still a positive year for Toronto. They finally got past the first round in the NBA playoffs. The only other time prior to this year was in the 2001 NBA playoffs, where Toronto defeated the New York Knicks in five games.
Toronto Raptors Losing to LeBron James
There was no shame in Toronto losing in 2016 to LeBron James. They were also the only Eastern Conference team not to get swept by Cleveland in 2016. However, the series losses in 2017-18 felt much worse. To be fair, the 2016-17 Raptors team was not at the level of the 2016 team. They had 51 wins that year but were struggling until Masai Ujiri made the trade. This is what DeRozan said about the trade to acquire Serge Ibaka according to Peter Kaye of Life in Repeat.
“We’ve been talking about a four (power forward) for the last year or two as an addition to our team, and we get a guy like Serge at a critical point when we needed him.”
— NBA (@NBA) May 7, 2017
The Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks with a young Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round of the NBA playoffs in 2017. They would then face James and the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, for the Raptors, the Cavs this time swept the Raps in four games that year. While this was a step back for Toronto, it was not totally unexpected. Cleveland only lost one playoff game in the Eastern Conference that year. So, Toronto could take solace in the fact that other Eastern Conference teams had a similar problem with James and the Cavaliers.
Toronto Raptors Playoff Run from 2014-17
— NBA (@NBA) January 29, 2016
The Raptors’ early run in the playoffs was a learning curve. They played well against the Brooklyn Nets. However, they struggled in the 2015 NBA playoffs and were swept by the Washington Wizards. This was a bitter pill to swallow for Raptors fans as they were the higher seed in the first round. 2016 though was a breakthrough year for the Toronto organization and is very much part of the Raptors legacy.
They made their first-ever Eastern Conference Final appearance. Also, Toronto hosted the NBA All-Star Game that year. In that year, Lowry was a starter and DeRozan a backup All-Star.
After 2019, it is hard to argue that there was a year the Raptors were not more successful than in 2016. It also marked the standard of play for Toronto. They never failed to make the second round of the NBA playoffs from 2016-20. A stat that shows that the Raptors were an elite team in the NBA and in the Eastern Conference.
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