The Toronto Raptors are headed back to the NBA Postseason. The Raptors secured their first spot in the playoffs since the 2007-2008 with a win over the Boston Celtics Friday evening in Toronto.
The Raptors were tied 103-103 in the final minute against the Celtics, when coming out of a timeout Kyle Lowry drove to the basket missed the layup, but johnny on the spot, Amir Johnson got the offensive rebound and put back to give the Raptors the lead and the eventual victory 105-103 over Boston. Raptors defeating the Celtics in a home-and-home helped them clinch a playoff berth.
Head coach Dwane Casey felt a sense of accomplishment in his 2nd year with the Raptors, citing that he kind of took the playoffs for granted in the past as an assistant coach with his former teams: Dallas Mavericks and Seattle SuperSonics.
“We’re excited about it. It seems like an old habit for me as far as going there a lot in Dallas and a lot in Seattle–you kind of take it for granted, ” Casey said, “if you told me in year one that we’d be knocking on the door, in the playoffs in a rebuilding situation. My hat is off to all the guys who have come through here, to Demar Derozan, to Amir Johnson, that been here through it all. And to the fans, fans for understanding and being patient, I know they didn’t see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but again it’s a process, you don’t build Rome overnight.”
When asked if Casey himself felt a sense of accomplishment for being the coach to bring the Toronto Raptors back to the playoffs, Casey took the unselfish route–instead congratulation the organization and crediting those in the past for paving the way.
“It’s ratifying, again I’m happy for Demar and Amir just as much, ” Casey said, “I’m happy for the franchise, I’m happy for Larry Tanenbaum and the people that put this together. Bell and Rogers, I’m happy for them because of the equity they put into it. I think it’s so important to understand, I do understand what he went through, what this organization went through. Brian Colangelo, what his vision was, didn’t see it at the end but his vision is where we’re going right now. And now with Masai [Ujiri] and Tim [Leiweke] coming in.”
The Raptors record at currently 41-31 was the quickest in franchise history that they had clinched a playoff berth (72 games). The Raptors are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Atlantic Division. But hot on their trails are the Chicago Bulls 1 game back, and division foes Brooklyn Nets 2.5 games back. Raptors still have some work to do to hold off the oncoming opposition to win their 2nd division in franchise history (2006-2007)
Joining the Toronto Raptors in 2009 out of the NBA draft, DeMar DeRozan will be playing in the first postseason in his career, and he feels that process in getting to where they are now was all worth it.
“Man it means a lot, honestly man. Especially what we and Amir have been through here with the tough seasons, through the ups and downs, the struggles and we stuck with it, ” Derozan said, “It was definitely cool to get it in front our home fans and see the reaction that they gave us.”
“It just sums up everything these guys–four years, four seasons that we’ve been through, it was all worth it. These fans stuck behind us every single day they going to continue to do so.”
While 8-year veteran Amir Johnson, who also joined the Raptors in 2009, will be heading back to the playoffs for a 3rd time–twice early in his career with the Detroit Pistons, but his first as a member of the Toronto Raptors, and his first as a starter and key contributor.
“We made it!” Amir Johnson shouted during the post-game media scrum.
“It’s big, it’s been 6 years since this team, this organization has made it to the playoffs. This team has worked so hard and it was good game tonight. We deserve it, we’ve been playing our butt off, playing through injuries, we’ve had our ups and downs, we made it,” Johnson said.
On the crowd reaction to clinching the playoffs at home, Amir knows there’s more to accomplish now that they have clinched the berth.
“It’s a satisfying, kind of overwhelming feeling. But at the same time you still got a lot more to accomplish, but like I said we gotta take one step at a time, it’s a good feeling that we clinched the playoffs.”
If the playoffs were to begin today, the Raptors would be taking on the Washington Wizards with home court advantage.
Toronto Raptors have competed in the post season 5 times in their previous 18 year history–losing in the first round 4 times.