2001-02: Raptors Face Adversity
Coming off another franchise-best season, there was no break for GM Glen Grunwald. Many outsiders believed many, if not all, Raptor free agents were poised to leave the team for greener pastures south of the border. Once again, Grunwald proved the doubters wrong as he re-signed Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Alvin Williams, all of which led to Vince Carter extending his contract showing the team and the rest of the league that he was committed to the Toronto Raptors. Vince's vote of confidence in Grunwald and the owners help lure future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to town as well.
The Raptors finished the first half of the season with an impressive 29-21 record. Vince Carter led all players with 1,470,176 votes for the All-Star Game and joined Michael Jordan (nine times) and Julius Erving (four times) as the only players in league history to lead all vote-getters three or more times. Unfortunately, in the final game before the All-Star break, Carter aggravated his "jumper's knee" injury and was unable to compete in the festivities.
The Raptors returned from the All-Star break with great optimism, but without their scoring leader. With Carter out of the lineup various players stepped up as Davis recorded a six-game double-double streak, Alvin Williams tied a career-high with 14 assists in a game and Keon Clark had his season highs with 26 points and 15 boards against the Knicks. All of these efforts couldn’t stop the Raptors from suffering through a 13-game losing streak though and it looked as though they were headed for the Draft Lottery.
Just when everyone around the game counted them out and with Vince shutting it down for the season, the Raptors turned it all around. The team came together and won 12 of its final 14 games, including a franchise-high nine straight victories, to claim its third straight playoff appearance.
Without Carter the playoffs proved tough for the team as they took on the surprising Detroit Pistons, champions of the Central Division. After two disappointing setbacks in Detroit, the Raptors stormed back to soundly win two games at home and force a deciding Game 5. Toronto took an early lead and the contest was tight throughout but the Raptors suffered a painfully close loss, 85-82, ending a rollercoaster season.
Antonio Davis took charge in the last month of the season to carry the
Raptors into the playoffs for the
third straight year.