23 days of Toronto Raptors history: first playoff game

Toronto Raptors - Tracy McGrady Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport
Toronto Raptors - Tracy McGrady Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport /

The Raptors finished 45-37, their first season over .500, and were rewarded with a playoff appearance. They faced the Knicks at MSG for a historic game.

Dateline: April 23, 2000

In their fifth season of NBA action, the Toronto Raptors made the playoffs. Their first-ever post-season game saw them face the Knicks in New York. For whatever reason, Toronto stumbled badly in the first quarter. Despite winning Q2 & Q4, and tying Q3, the 15-point deficit created was too much to overcome. The Raptors succumbed by a 92-88 count.

Vince Carter had a game to forget, and has to wear the goat’s horns in this game. He shot a ghastly 3 of 20 from the floor, which negated the sterling efforts of cousin Tracy McGrady. Our 20-year-old small forward led all scorers with 25 points. He completed his double-double with 10 rebounds, 8 of which were on the offensive glass. That’s more O-boards than all the Knicks pulled down in total.

I throw the stat in as a reminder that T-Mac at his best was a wonderful, complete player, and fully deserves his plaque in the Hall of Fame. I only wish he’d spent more seasons with our team.

The Knicks’ balanced attack was led by Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell, who split 42 points. Chris Childs, who became a Raptor next season, added a dozen.

Charles Oakley hurt his former team, scoring 11 points and adding 6 assists. Oak was a complete player, with a lot more to offer than a bad temper.

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Our leading rebounder (with 11) was Kevin Willis, a superb two-way contributor throughout his criminally underrated career. He played 5 games for the Dallas Mavericks in 2006-07 – at the age of 44.

Kevin was acquired from the Houston Rockets in 1998 for a price which would cause today’s fans to protest-march Masai Ujiri’s office. We surrendered Roy Rogers and two first-round draft picks(!). Fortunately the Rockets dribbled the opportunity off their foot and out of bounds. Their selections were Bryce Drew and Mirsad Tircan. It was an awful draft class; the only consequential player picked after the lottery turned out to be Rashard Lewis.

What happened to our scoring?

Anyway, the first game was a precursor of trouble. In those years, quarter-final series were best of five, and the Raptors couldn’t shake their scoring woes. In what turned out to be a sweep, Toronto’s offense never reached 90 points. The best chance for a win was in Game 2, but the Raptors managed to fumble away a dozen-point lead going into the final quarter to lose by one.

Vince ended a sad 1 for 10 from beyond the arc in the embarrassing defeats, and 14 for 40 from inside. With Toronto’s most important offensive weapon neutralized, there wasn’t enough alternate scoring.

The disappointing series, and a collection of ongoing controversies, cost coach Butch Carter his job. Lenny Wilkens was his successor.

Happily for Raptors fans, the team enjoyed sweet revenge the following post-season. Knicks fans surely thought the series was over, and Game 5 in Madison Square Garden would be a formality. That story soon.

Next. Five biggest what ifs in franchise history. dark

Checkout day eight of the 23 days of Raptors history when we remember Vince Carter’s iconic dunk contest.