TORONTO, April 17 (Ticker) --
The Toronto Raptors completed one of the
most remarkable reversals in NBA history and are headed to the
playoffs. They will open up the first round on the road against the Detroit Pistons.
The Raptors secured their third straight postseason berth with a
103-85 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, earning a standing
ovation from fans who nearly booed them out of the building
less than a month ago.
On March 21, the Raptors were 30-38, having lost four in a row
and 17 of 18. The following day, superstar Vince Carter
announced he would undergo knee surgery, ending his season. Having lost 13 games in a row during the season, the Raptors also tied the NBA mark for the longest losing skid to still reach the postseason, matching the Phoenix Suns, who lost their first 13 games yet made the playoffs.
However, Toronto won at Cleveland that night, starting a
franchise-record nine-game winning streak that got it back into
the playoff picture. The Raptors continued the surge and
finished the season by winning 12 of 14.
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Antonio Davis was one of three Raptors to score at least 21 points.
"There's no way to explain all the things we've been through,
all the ups and the downs," forward Antonio Davis
said as he
addressed the Air Canada Centre crowd after the game.
The Raptors joined the 1976-77 Chicago Bulls and the 1996-97
Phoenix Suns as the only teams in the NBA, NHL or baseball to
lose 13 straight games during the season and make the playoffs.
"It was a difficult year, a lot of injuries," said coach Lenny
Wilkens, whose job was reportedly in danger during the slide.
"It's a hell of a growth year and the players should be really
proud. We stuck by each other. Sometimes you have to play out
Toronto (42-40) finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and
will face second-seeded Detroit, its Great Lakes neighbor, when
the playoffs begin this weekend.
"We have to go on the road to Detroit and that's not what we
wanted," Davis said. "We're glad to be here. The first game
should be a big test to see how they attack us. It is important
that we are playing well and we feel as good a chance as anyone
being in the seventh spot."
"I think Toronto will do very well in the playoffs," Cleveland
coach John Lucas said. "They turn turnovers into points. They
play the open court very well and they are playing great right
had a season-high 22 points and 12 rebounds and
scored 22 points for the Raptors, who put
together a strong second half after a shaky first half. Toronto
held Cleveland to 33 points after halftime.
"I was a bit too excited," Peterson said. "But we settled down
and started playing as a team."
"Tonight we came out a little rambunctious, but we settled down
in the second quarter," Williams said.
scored 28 points for the Cavaliers (29-53), who
endured their third straight 50-loss season under first-year
coach Lucas. Cleveland has lost seven consecutive visits to
"I thought Lamond played very well," Lucas said. "We did some
positive things. We came to work and we played well for three
quarters. But we let it get away in the fourth quarter."
Murray scored 21 points in the first half, when Cleveland led by
as many as 10 points but settled for a 52-50 halftime edge.
Two free throws by Davis started a 14-4 run that gave Toronto
the lead for good. Keon Clark
had a pair of jumpers and
Williams and Peterson had fast-break dunks. A jumper by Alvin
gave the Raptors a 66-58 lead with 7:45 left in the
Toronto led, 77-68, after three quarter and opened the final
period with a 9-0 burst to double the lead. Jermaine Jackson's
layup made it 86-68 with just under 10 minutes to play and the
Cavs never threatened thereafter.
"At the half we talked about getting a hand in Lamond Murray's
face, but it was mostly about our effort and what was on the
line," Jerome Williams said.
Davis had 21 points and 10 boards, giving Toronto three players
with 20 points for the first time since December 19 against
Indiana. The Raptors shot 48 percent (38-of-79) from the field
and held a 42-36 edge on the boards.
Free agent swingman Ricky Davis
scored 19 points for the Cavs, who shot 39 percent
(31-of-80) and committed 19 turnovers.