Postgame Instant Replay
|April 17 at Air Canada Centre|
If you were told at the beginning of the season that the Raptors playoff chances would hinge on the outcome of the final game of the season you would have been bitterly disappointed.
If you were told a month ago that the Raptors even had a playoff chance you would have been ecstatic.
Well go ahead and revel in ecstasy because the Raptors are in after beating the Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre, 103-85, on the final day of the NBA regular season.
"We always said we'd be in the playoffs, we just didn't know it would be like this," said Jerome Williams, the catalyst in the playoff-clinching game with 22 points and 12 rebounds. "We're just glad the fans stuck with us."
After looking for awhile that they would not compete in the postseason, the Raptors ended the regular season by winning 12 of their final 14 games to finish in seventh place of the Eastern Conference. The Bucks got pummeled by the Pistons in their season finale. to set up a first-round series between Toronto and Detroit, starting this weekend.
Strange and unusual things happen when Toronto and Cleveland meet on the NBA court.
It started right after the All-Star break when an injury-riddled Raptors squad lost at Gund Arena, the beginning of a miserable 13-game losing streak. It continued six weeks later back in Cleveland when the Raptors were victorious on March 22, the first of nine straight Ws for the gang in purple. The Twilight Zone action concluded on Wednesday as the Raptors propelled themselves into the playoffs for the third straight season.
"It’s amazing, you play 81 games and it comes down to the 82nd game," said Lenny Wilkens.
It's been an up-and-down-and-up season for the Raptors, a season where big things were expected by many, but one which evolved into a competition for survival. And survive they did, coming back from the NBA scrap heap with a grind-it-out style that now defines the team.
It wasn't easy, just as it wasn't easy all season, but what matters is getting the job done and not worrying how pretty it looks.
"We're finding ways to win. That's the sign of a mature team, showing patience, going into the huddle and coming out and doing what you're supposed to," said Antonio Davis. "It does take a certain amount of mental toughness to overcome some of the things we've gone through."
"I think we're a composed team right now," Wilkens said when asked to define his squad. "We know we can defend people. That's going to be our trademark, but we also showed we can push the ball and get out there and run."
And run they will, galloping as a matter of fact, all the way down Highway 401 into Detroit to start the second season.
Notes: Raptors assistant coach Stan Albeck made his first visit back to Air Canada Centre following a stroke he suffered on December 23. Albeck received a big ovation when introduced and sat in his customary spot on the Toronto bench … Maple Leafs Corey Schwab and Cory Cross were sitting courtside, relaxing before their first playoff game on Thursday when Toronto hosts the New York Islanders … At the end of the game, Chris Childs walked over and gave the ball and a big hug to Wilkens. Several other players also embraced the coach at the end of the game.
--- by Matt Akler, raptors.com
J. Williams/Peterson - 22
J. Williams - 12
A. Williams - 8
Murray - 28
Hill - 10
Miller/Langdon - 5