The Toronto Raptors lost Friday evening to the New York Knicks in a 108-100 game at the Air Canada Centre, that would be the bad news. However, the good news came just 15 minutes after the loss, as their Atlantic Division foes, the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Atlanta Hawks 93-88. As a result, the Toronto Raptors at 46-33 on the season with 3 games remaining and 3 games up on the 43-36 Nets, holding the tie breaker–had clinched their 2nd Atlantic Division title in franchise history. And thus have clinched home court advantage for the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Raptors will no longer have just one lone banner hanging at the Air Canada Centre, they can now hang a second to go with their 2006-2007 Atlantic Division Championship banner.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 12, 2014
With the loss still fresh on his mind, Dwane Casey being the defensive minded coach that he is, was not thinking about the clinch, but rather focusing on the team’s defensive play.
“I promise you, I’m not thinking about that,” Casey said. “I’m thinking about our team, where we got to get better, get Amir Johnson back in, get our defense back acclimated, back to the level where we need to be. Our individual defense, I thought our schemes we had were pretty good, but just our individual stuff, you gotta guard your man, guard your yard.”
When asked to comment a second time on the Raptors clinching the division, Casey was happy for the fans, but still more of the focus was on tonight’s loss.
“I’m excited about it, it’s good for us, but again I’m more concerned about getting better and continuing to play.”
“It’s great for the fans, I’m excited for the fans, but I’m more concerned about 30% inside the 3-point line tonight,” Casey said. “That’s good to know, and exciting for the fans, this franchise has had a lot of ups and downs.
Home court advantage may be a big factor in the playoffs, but coach Casey reiterated that it was more for the fans, although it certainly does not hurt their chances of advancing to the second round playing a potential game 7 in front of the home crowd.
“For our fans and for us, cause we are a young team and whoever we play, probably if it’s going to be Brooklyn, it’s probably going to be more of an experienced team so being at home will help. But it’s not the answer, it’s not the cure-all, it’s not going to win the game for you. We still have to go out there and compete and win and do the things we have to do to win. But again it’s great for our fans.”
Kyle Lowry echoed similar thoughts to the coach, more of a bitter sweet feeling that the team didn’t win the division by winning a game but rather another team’s loss.
“It’s pretty sweet that we won the division but we didn’t win it, you know–by a win. But we’ll take the division champs anyday,” Lowry said.
When asked if he cared which first round opponent the Raptors would be facing in the postseason, Lowry simply replied, “Nah, not at all.”
Amir Johnson joined the Toronto Raptors in 2009, and has been there through the lows and now the highs was more elated to be able to clinch the home court advantage through the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a good feeling, I’ve been here for 5 years and just to see our ups and downs. And to make out improvements, to come out winning, you know division champs, it’s a proud moment,” Johnson said. “We have a lot more to go, we’re still working hard and just gotta keep going.”
“You definitely want to have home court advantage, because definitely our fans get into it. They’re going to be our 7th man, we definitely want to establish home court. It’s always tough to go at somebody’s house and win a game and grab a couple, so we definitely want to grab that home court.”
The Raptors cannot relax just yet with 3 games left on the season (Detroit, Milwaukee, New York), are still locked in a battle for 3rd place with the Chicago Bulls (47-32), who were victorious tonight over the Pistons. The Bulls currently hold a 1 game lead on the Raptors for that 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.