Another year — gone.
As far as Toronto Raptors seasons go, this was a pretty good one. And yes I am still in mourning, but I’m just saying, keep it all in perspective. You have every right to be bummed out — heck, I am, too — but let’s appreciate that the Boston Celtics series, even in defeat, was one for the ages.
It’s an awkward position we’re in right now. As a city and a franchise, we’ve never had to deal with losing the title before. I even found myself caught off guard by our playoff elimination: we haven’t been eliminated from the playoffs since May 7, 2018.
We were spared asking ourselves, “What went wrong?” last year because nothing did. We reached the mountain top. Now, however, we find ourselves back with the rest of the league, climbing to be back at the top.
But I’d like to remind all of you of something that is very important as a sports fan, Raptors fan, and really in any competitive situation.
We’re not going to win every year.
We just had another amazing season. We had the second best record in the league after losing our number one guy. Do you know what other teams look like when they lose a player the calibre of Kawhi Leonard?
The 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers had a 50-32 record with LeBron James while the 2019 team without him had a 19-63 record. The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers went 56-26 with Shaquille O’Neal while the 2005 team without him went 34-48. Finally, the 1991 Lakers with Magic Johnson went 58-24 while the next year without him, their record was 43-39.
I recently walked around the downtown campus and Chinatown asking students what they remembered about this year of Raptors basketball. Nobody mentioned our game seven loss. It wasn’t what stuck out this season and it shouldn’t taint anything. Let’s look back on our record-setting year.
Pascal Siakam’s ascendance
We were worried about how Pascal Siakam would hold up as our number one guy. We’d seen him thrive off the ball and as a complimentary star next to Leonard, but his improvements last year were startling enough; we couldn’t expect him to do it again, right?
Well, from game one he was proving the doubters wrong. On opening night, Siakam put together a complete show: he even gave all four of the frumpy, white league executives hugs on his walk up to receive his championship ring. He then turned around and dropped 34 points, five assists, and 18 rebounds in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, all the while giving us that signature toothy smile.
Who is Terence Davis?
Have you ever asked yourself, “How many G League guys have the Raptors found or turned into quality NBA players?”
Since its inception in 2015, the Raptors 905, the G League team affiliated with the Toronto Raptors, have produced many NBA players.
As if we needed any more evidence that Masai Ujiri is the second coming, Terence Davis went from going undrafted to receiving 30 votes for NBA All-Rookie first team voting. On top of being a top tier athlete and a strong three-point shooter, Davis attacks fearlessly like the ex-football player he is. His rise is just the latest in the long line of rags-to-riches stories from the Raptors.
The injury cloud
Due to injury, Siakam missed 11 regular season games, Kyle Lowry missed 14, and Serge Ibaka missed 17. Several others have also missed multiple games to injury.
We still won more games than the Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Miami Heat. Chew on that.
The comeback game
December 22, 2019 was just a run-of-the-mill, regular season match against the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams were missing key players. Nobody expected much. I know I didn’t.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Raptors were down by 30 points. I remember turning to my dad at this point and saying, “We’re cursed! Whenever we go see a game in person, the Raptors lose. Remind me never to buy playoff tickets.”
People started to walk out as the quarter ended. I was so bummed I even considered leaving to try and get ahead of the post-game traffic — but I’m glad I stayed.
Long story short, Lowry went supernova in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors rallied back to complete a very memorable, statistical comeback in franchise history.
Winning is hard, and it doesn’t happen often. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. So, I know that loss to Boston was bitter, but keep faith! We had an amazing year, and it won’t be the last.