What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with NBA.com as we outline each team's Keys to Success.
In his third season, Vince Carter
elevated his game to new heights. He ranked fifth in the league in scoring at 27.6 (improving on last season's 25.7 average), accounted for nearly 30 percent of the Raptors' point production, and led the team in scoring 67 times. How important is Carter to the Raptors' success? Toronto was one game under .500 (4-5) in games Vince missed completely or partially due to injury and 13 games over .500 (43-30) in all other contests.
KEYS IN THE KEY:
At 6-9, Antonio Davis
is short, really short. Not compared to the average human being, but compared to the average NBA center. Yet somehow AD manages to dominate the paint unlike few players at his position in the league. He ranked ninth in the NBA in rebounding (10.1 rpg) and 13th in blocked shots (1.94 bpg), and led all Eastern Conference centers in scoring at 13.7 ppg. The starting center for the 2001 Eastern Conference All-Star team, Davis posted 37 double-doubles, and had 10 or more rebounds in 43 of 78 games played. Now if only AD wasn't so short...
At age 37, Charles Oakley
is the Raptors' geriatric expert, but he's also still one of their fiercest players and best defenders. With a team-high 132 playoff games under his belt (AD is next with 70), Oak can also proclaim himself the team's playoff expert.
KEY GAME, KEY VID: There's no such thing as a good loss, or is there? Only 24 hours after trading away five players including Mark Jackson in trading deadline-day deals, the Raptors made Alvin Williams the starting point guard and lost to Sacramento, 119-118, in a triple overtime thriller, but found the key to revitalize their season. Williams posted the first double-double of his career with 18 points and 13 assists. Following that game, Williams and the Raptors (28-27, .509) went on a season-high five-game winning streak and finished the regular season with 19 wins in 27 games (.704).
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Where would the Raptors be without Alvin Williams
? Such a question might have drawn laughs in previous seasons, but the longest-serving member of the Raptors flourished in 2000-01 and made fans and media alike forget his predecessor, Mark Jackson. In 34 games as a starter, Williams averaged 12.8 ppg, 7.2 apg, 3.6 rpg and 2.2 spg and performed well in the clutch, scoring nearly 40 percent of his points in the fourth quarter or overtime.
KEY DOG: Jerome Williams
, a.k.a Junk Yard Dog, quickly emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his no-holds barred approach to cleaning the glass. In 26 games with the Raptors, JYD averaged 4.0 rpg, and a more impressive 13.2 rebounds per 48 minutes.
Lanky forward/center Keon Clark
swatted shots at the prodigious rate of 2.39 per game in 46 games with the Raptors, including an NBA season-high 12 vs. Atlanta on Mar. 23. Surprisingly, however, Keon's offensive output is the best barometer for Toronto's success: the Raptors were 14-5 when he scored 10 or more points and 15-12 in all other games.
Rookie Morris Peterson
, drafted 21st in the 2000 NBA Draft, hit the proverbial rookie wall in late March, but the 6-7 forward from Michigan State remains an important key to Toronto's postseason success. The Raptors posted a 31-18 record in games he started.
Can Vince Carter direct the Raptors to their first-ever playoff win? After being swept by New York in last year's playoffs debut, Toronto looks to win three post-season games and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time in franchise history.
How will Vince Carter handle the double and even triple-team coverage that he will inevitably face in the playoffs? In last season's first-round series sweep, the Knicks shackled Vince with an array of defenders, limiting his scoring average to 19.3 ppg, more than six points below his regular season scoring average. If the Raptors hope to have a successful playoff run, Vince will have to dissect opponents' defenses and his teammates will have to help shoulder the scoring load.
KEY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE:
Sure Vince Carter's season-high 48 points in a 111-102 win vs. Milwaukee at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 18 were impressive, but Alvin Williams' 11-points, 10-rebounds and 14-assists performance in Toronto's 112-86 home win vs. Atlanta on Mar. 23
highlighted just how much Williams improved his game this season. Triple-doubles are rare in this league, let alone from a player who entered the season with career averages of 5.4 ppg, 2.3 apg and 1.6 rpg.
KEY TEAM BAROMETER:
The Century mark. When the Raptors score 100 or more points they win 80 percent of the time (32-8); when they don't, they win 36 percent of the time (15-27).