1998-99: Raptors' Best Season Ever
Despite a shortened 50-game schedule, the Raptors looked forward to rebounding from a disappointing season the year before. On Feb. 21, their fourth home game of the season, the Raptors opened their brand-new home, Air Canada Centre, with a 102-87 victory over their Canadian cousins, the Vancouver Grizzlies.
The Raptors went on to their most successful season to date with a 23-27 record for a franchise-best winning percentage of .460. They defeated the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs, the teams that competed later that year in the NBA Finals. Toronto posted its first winning record at home (14-11) and set franchise records for longest winning streaks at home (nine wins, March 7-April 4), on the road (three wins, April 17-23), and overall (six wins, March 26-April 4). In the process the Raptors became the most improved team in the NBA based on increased winning percentage over the previous year.
Part of the Raptors' breakout season can be contributed to Vince Carter, who the team acquired in a draft-day deal with the Golden State Warriors. Carter was named the NBA's Rookie of the Month in March and April and was the NBA's Player of the Week for March 22, becoming the first Raptor to earn the accolade after leading the team to a 5-0 record during that time. Carter went on to become the league's Rookie of the Year averaging a team-leading 18.3 points per game.
The Raptors also had the NBA's leader in three-point shots made and attempted when Dee Brown sunk 135 of 349 shots from beyond the arc. Also contributing to the team's success was Doug Christie who finished the season ranked fifth in steals with 2.26 a game. Kevin Willis scored his 15,000th point of his career on April 25, and collected his 10,000th rebound on March 26, making him only the 17th player in NBA history to reach the double milestone.
Two high-profile debuts occurred this year -- Rookie of the Year Vince Carter and the opening of Air Canada Centre.