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Raptors Clinch Playoff Spot

Mike Ulmer has worked for seven news organizations including the National Post and, most recently, the Toronto Sun. Mike has written about the Toronto sports scene for more than 10 years and has penned several books on sports and culture.

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April 1, 2007

(TORONTO) -- Morris Peterson will tell you: it was all worth it.

The forced trades of Vince Carter and Antonio Davis. Jalen Rose dressed in black when removed from the rotation.

And the losing, five straight years of it, including seasons of 25 and 27 wins.

That probably was the toughest things, some of the losses we had, said Peterson. All the games we led and ended up losing. If I look at this day, I would go through all the other stuff just to be here today.

Here today, are the playoffs, with yards to spare. Next will be the Atlantic Division title, the Raptors magic number is now three and there are two weeks of basketball yet to play.

As far as the NBA post-season goes, the Raptors are extinct no more. They are, instead, a versatile, unselfish, hard-working, basketball team with premier weapons in Chris Bosh and TJ Ford and a whale of a bench. If you needed any proof, you needed look only at Sunday's 107-94 pummeling of the Charlotte Bobcats that was nowhere near as close as the score would otherwise indicate.

Bosh had 10 points and five rebounds halfway through the first quarter. He finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds in just over 30 minutes of work.

Six Raptors, Bosh, Anthony Parker (14 points), Juan Dixon (15), Kris Humphries (13) and Jose Calderon (14) hit double figures. The Raptors outrebounded Charlotte 48-34 and reeled off 18 fast-break points to the Bobcats 4. Now, the Charlotte Bobcats are not going to the playoffs, but you get the point.

The Raptors rebuild began with the appointment of Bryan Colangelo as president and general manager and featured nine new players, including the widely-panned acquisition of Ford for Charlie Villanueva.

From the beginning, the Raptors insisted they were playoff worthy but when the club stumbled under the weight of a hideous early schedule, there seemed little evidence that this year would be substantially different than last.

When we were 2-8 everybody doubted us but we didnt have any doubt in that locker room that we were a good basketball team, said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell.

There were a couple of pivotal nights. Limping home in the early going after six straight losses, the Raptors beat Cleveland 97-93. No one thought we could win that game, Mitchell said. The Cleveland game proved that after a long road trip, and we proved to ourselves, that we could beat a good basketball team.

In mid-December, with Bosh knocked out of the lineup by a sore knee, the Raptors won in Orlando 91-84. Rookie Andrea Bargnani scored 23 points.

Andrea kind of grew up that night, Mitchell said.

The varied elements blended together by Colangelo quickly came together.

Anthony Parker emerged as the most fundamentally sound player on the team and a player with prodigious basketball IQ.

Bargnani quickly became a rookie of the year candidate before an emergency appendectomy knocked him out of the lineup. He should be ready for the playoffs.

Fred Jones never found a consistent spot in the rotation. Colangelo swapped him to Portland for Juan Dixon who boosted an already impressive bench.

After a middling rookie season hampered by injury, Jose Calderon emerged as a player whose hustle, shot and court vision, who would earn him a starting spot on the majority of NBA teams.

Before a fractured ankle, Jorge Garbajosa had established himself as a valuable starter.

I think everybody gets the same credit, said Bosh. Everybody came to the table this year, ready to work. We had positives attitudes. No matter how much people didnt see us coming, we continued to work.

Peterson, as he usually does, has it right.

Winning cures all, he said. Youve got to fall before youve had some success. That gives you character and makes you hungry.