The Toronto Raptors have made the playoffs 10 times since the franchise's inception. During that period they've had some great moments, but what are the top 15?
Over the past few years, the Toronto Raptors have become a postseason staple. Toronto has made the playoffs six consecutive seasons, tied for the fourth-longest consecutive streak in the NBA.
Over the past three seasons, Toronto ranks fourth in playoff games and wins. Although the Raptors' success has been the butt of many jokes, statistically, they have been one of the most consistent playoff teams in recent history.
That didn't always use to be the case. The Raptors made the playoffs in just five of their first 18 seasons as a franchise. They made it out of the first round just once during that span.
A relatively new franchise, the Raptors playoff history can be divided into three segments: The Vince Carter era, the Chris Bosh era and the Kyle Lowry era (sorry to DeMar DeRozan, who just had his name taken off this list).
With Carter, the Raptors made it out of the first round only once. The farthest the team reached was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, in an epic back-and-forth battle with the soon-to-be Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bosh years were dark. Toronto didn't win a playoff series and won only three playoff games total during his seven years with the franchise.
The Kyle Lowry era has seen five playoff appearances, four series wins and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The team has underperformed their seeding on a couple of occasions. However, it's unequivocally the most successful period in franchise history.
It's also still being written. With Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard now on the roster, Toronto has its best roster in franchise history. The team is set up better to win now, more than ever before.
But what have been the most successful moments up to this point? We take a look at the greatest moments in Raptors playoff history.
15. 2017 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 6 vs. Bucks
In the first round of the 2017 postseason, the Raptors learned how much of a force Giannis Antetokounmpo could be in the NBA playoffs. During the series, Antetokounmpo averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals per game for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was a one-man wrecking crew, an unstoppable force that Toronto needed to slow down.
Despite Antetokounmpo's herculean efforts, the Raptors found themselves up 3-2 heading into Game 6. DeMar DeRozan was having a series of his own. While he wasn't playing quite to the level of Antetokounmpo, his supporting cast was significantly better.
The year prior, the Raptors needed two seven-game series to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2017, they were hoping to have a little easier of a road. Antetokounmpo had been such a force in the opening part of the series, you didn't want to test your luck against a supernova performance in a winner-take-all Game 7. It's safe to say the Raptors had a lot riding on a road Game 6 performance.
They controlled the entire first three quarters. Milwaukee scored just 61 points, including only 21 from players not named Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton. Through three quarters, Matthew Dellavedova was the team's third-leading scorer.
The Bucks couldn't stop DeRozan, who dropped 24 points through three on greater than 50-percent shooting. It looked as if the Raptors were going to cruise to an easy victory, up by 13 heading into the final quarter.
But things are never that easy in Toronto. Milwaukee went on an insane 19-5 run to start the fourth. After a huge Jason Terry triple, the Bucks took the lead with just three minutes left.
The teams went back-and-forth a bit. With 1:27 remaining Corey Joseph hit a monster 3-point dagger. The next possession, Toronto got a stop. Then, up three with less than a minute remaining, DeRozan threw down a nasty, in-traffic jam to twist the dagger in the Bucks' ribcage. A huge moment, from Toronto's key player.
A two-possession lead with little time left, the Raptors were able to close out the game relatively easily. DeRozan put an exclamation point on the series. The Raptors would move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
14. Kyle Lowry hits half-court heave to force overtime vs. Heat
By 2016, the Raptors had already been assigned the "choke" label by much of the NBA media and fanbases. The team had lost as the higher seed the previous two seasons, including an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards.
Taking seven games to win the first round as the No. 2-seed didn't help. So as Toronto got ready for the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the same old mantras about how the Raptors being made for the regular season crept back into the lexicon.
While it's easy to dismiss national rhetoric as unimportant and non-impactful on team success, sometimes outside opinions can infiltrate locker rooms and have a real impact on free-agency decisions.
Fair or unfair, losing a series to an undermanned Miami Heat team (Chris Bosh missed the playoffs with what has now become a career-ending injury) would have a severe impact on the Raptors' reputation.
When the Raptors found themselves down three points, with three seconds remaining and an entire court to travel, things didn't look good. Then, the impossible happened:
(Check out Nick Nurse's reaction to the shot in the bench's celebration)
Kyle Lowry hit a jumper which took Sam Cassell sized onions. Of course, whenever a half-court heave is made, there is a bit of luck to it. But Lowry's composure to throw up a competent look in the closing seconds is something often missing. Certainly, it dissuades any idea of a "choke" label.
Despite Lowry's heroic heave, the Raptors lost Game 1. A loss which, admittedly, does take some of the shine away from this moment. However, considering the situation and the odds, it doesn't erase it completely. For a brief second, Lowry changed the fate of a playoff game with a half-court bomb.
13. 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 3 vs. Magic
The Chris Bosh playoff era was primarily a disappointment. Surrounded by a cast of misfits, Bosh made the postseason just twice during his Raptors career, both times exiting in the first round without much of a fight.
In 2008, the Raptors qualified as the six-seed with a record of just 41-41. Even more than a decade ago, the bottom of the Eastern Conference was still a complete dumpster fire.
The Raptors were a scrappy bunch centered around Bosh and not much else. Toronto ranked ninth in offense and 13th in defense that season. Unfortunately, they were also 15-27 in games decided by 10 points or less.
Game 1 and Game 2 went pretty much how you would expect. Bosh averaged 25 and eight, but the Orlando Magic found a way to win, taking the series advantage, 2-0
In Game 3, Toronto found its rhythm as a team. Instead of a one-man effort from Bosh, everyone was involved. Toronto put up 51 first-half points and received big scoring nights from guys like T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono. Who knows what was in the Raptors water that night, but across the board, everyone on the team was feeling it.
Toronto taking Game 3 at home put a legitimate fear into center Dwight Howard and the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Magic. If a couple of things had broken right in a series which was much more highly contested than the 4-1 record would indicate. Who knows? It might have very well been the Raptors who have advanced to the second round or further.
12. 2018 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 2 vs. Wizards
The 2018 NBA Playoffs were a rough time for the Raptors. However, early on, there was a fleeting moment of optimism. The Raptors took care of business in Game 1 and Game 2, with the latter being a thrilling 130-119 shootout.
The first quarter was an offensive explosion from both sides, but particularly the Raptors. Toronto shot 16-27 from the field, including 7-13 from beyond the arc. The Raptors scored 44 first-quarter points and put up an offensive rating of 151.7! After one quarter, the Raptors were up 17 points and looked in complete control.
The middle of the game was played pretty much even. With less than five minutes remaining in the third, Toronto was up 17 points and ready to put the game out of reach at any minute.
Washington wouldn't allow for that to happen. Wizards point guard John Wall picked up his play and started attacking the rim with an intense ferocity. All of a sudden, with two-thirds of the fourth quarter remaining, it was a five-point game.
DeMar DeRozan and company responded. DeRozan put up 10 points in the final eight minutes, pulling away from the frisky Wizards for a final score, which looked less competitive than the game itself.
At the time, DeRozan was the subject of much postseason discussion. Was his new 3-point jumper going to translate to the postseason? Would his playoff troubles continue? He responded in this game with an impressive 37 points on 60-percent shooting, including 3-6 from downtown. At the time, it appeared as if he had turned the corner.
11. 2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: First ever playoff game
The Raptors didn't have much success during their first few seasons in the NBA. In the franchise's initial four years, Toronto went 90-205 for a combined winning percentage of under 31 percent.
The 1999-2000 season was the Raptors first real taste of success. Second-year player Vince Carter, his cousin Tracy McGrady, along with grizzled veterans Antonio Davis and Doug Christie helped the Raptors secure the first winning record in franchise history. Along with it came a playoff berth.
Toronto would be facing off against the No. 3-seeded New York Knicks. The Knicks were the defending Eastern Conference champions after winning the East as a No. 8-seed the season prior. They were loaded with veterans such as Patrick Ewing, Latrell Sprewell, and others. New York was the heavy favorite heading into the series.
When Game 1 tipped off, the Raptors looked like a team with no playoff experience, while the Knicks looked like they had been there before. New York held Toronto to 12 points in the opening quarter. By the end of the first period, the Knicks had a 15-point lead.
As a young, inexperienced team, Toronto could have folded right then and there. The Raptors didn't, as they battled and won the remaining quarters by 11 points. The final margin ended up being just four points.
Despite going against one of the best, most accomplished teams in the league, Toronto wasn't ready yet. But the Raptors at least got to the big stage, cementing their place as a real NBA franchise. It got them ready for the next year, when they would be a legitimate force.
10. 2001 Eastern Conference Quartefinals: First ever playoff win
Making the playoffs is a nice story. However, winning a playoff game is a much sweeter moment. When the Raptors first made the postseason in 2000, they weren't able to pick up a single victory as they were swept by the New York Knicks, 3-0.
When they faced off against the Knicks again the following season, Toronto already had a taste of playoff experience. The Raptors were ready this time.
But when they dropped Game 1, you'd forgive anybody for panicking, just a little bit. Falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series is essentially a death sentence. Game 2 in Madison Square Garden, the Raptors' backs were against the wall.
The first half was stereotype early 2000s basketball. Both teams shot below 40 percent, the Knicks only attempted one 3-pointer and Toronto scraped out a two-point lead.
This was precisely the type of game the Knicks wanted to play. New York played at the league's slowest pace, allowed the fewest points per game (86.1), and scored just 88.17 points per contest themselves, ranking 29th in the NBA.
Toronto was a more balanced team. The Raptors ranked in the top half of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency and certainly weren't looking to play this type of a slugfest.
In the second half, the Raptors finally broke free. Vince Carter, Alvin Williams and Charles Oakley all had big halves, as the team managed to shoot 50 percent from the field and 14-20 from the free-throw line. They scored 55 second-half points, more than the Knicks did in the first three quarters.
Toronto pulled away, giving the Raptors their first playoff win as a franchise and a chance to win the series.
9. 2016 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 7 vs. Pacers
The most successful postseason in Raptors franchise history didn't start so hot. It took the No. 2-seeded Raptors seven games to make it out of the first round. With that being said, the Raptors Game 7 performance versus the Indiana Pacers is one of the great moments in franchise history.
The series was very close, although the games themselves weren't as exciting. Only one of the first six games was decided by single digits. Many of the contests were blowouts.
Game 7 looked like it was going to be a relatively unexciting game as well. The Raptors took control. At the end of three quarters, were up by 14. One quick run to start the fourth quarter and the game would be decided.
But things are never that easy for the Raptors. Midway through the fourth, the Pacers started to make their move. Toronto couldn't buy a bucket for long stretches. In the blink of an eye, a Monta Ellis jumper cut the Raptors' lead down to three. All of a sudden, it was a contest.
Kyle Lowry responded with a layup to increase the lead to five. Then, the Raptors defense locked in. Indiana turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes, only attempting one field goal during that same time span. Toronto pulled out a victory and survived.
The win wasn't pretty, but after being eliminated in the first round the two previous seasons, Toronto didn't need pretty. The Raptors just needed a win.
8. 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Game 2 vs. Heat
Following a heartbreaking overtime loss in game one of the series, the No. 2-seeded Raptors were down 0-1 in the second round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
Teams that fall behind 0-2 in a seven-game series have a combined record of 21-281 for a winning percentage of under seven percent. To make matters worst, Toronto already lost home-court advantage. Game 2 was as much of a must-win as any non-elimination could be.
The Raptors came out like their season was on the line. They crawled into Miami's skin on defense and forced 11 first-quarter turnovers. They also crashed the glass, grabbing five offensive boards. Toronto attempted more than twice as many first-quarter shots as Miami and were up 10 after one.
The Heat controlled the middle of the game. They outscored the Raptors by three during the second quarter and nine during the third. Heading into the fourth, Toronto trailed by two.
There were three lead changes and three different ties in the fourth quarter alone. The teams traded blows like Ali v. Frazier. With 10 seconds remaining, the game was tied. Toronto had the ball and one last chance to end this game in regulation.
Kyle Lowry brought the ball up the court. He isolated at the top of the key, pounded the rock for a few seconds and attempted a nasty step-back jumper. It was online and.....airballed. At the end of four periods, the game was not over and would be heading for a second consecutive overtime.
This overtime worked out much different than the one in Game o1e. With the season essentially on the line, when Toronto needed it the most, their defense stepped up.
The Heat didn't score their first overtime points until there were 24 seconds remaining in the period. Toronto survived with a W and gave themselves a chance to still win the series.
7. 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Win first playoff series
The Raptors first playoff appearance didn't go as planned. But after being swept by the New York Knicks the previous season, they found themselves in a five-game battle the next year.
The teams traded blows over the first four games of the series, alternating wins. New York took Game 1 and Game 3. Toronto captured Game 2 and Game 4.
At the time, the first-round matchup was decided in a best-of-five series. As the lower-seeded team, the Raptors were forced to go on the road to Madison Square Garden, the Mecca, for a winner-take-all Game 5.
The first quarter watched the two teams trade baskets back-and-forth with neither team gaining a real advantage. The Raptors shot 53 percent from the field, including 3-3 from distance against one of the lowest scoring teams in the NBA, but were only up one.
In the middle of the game, Toronto started to gently pull away. The Raptors outscored the Knicks 24-19 during the second quarter and 21-16 during the third. When the fourth quarter began, the Raptors had a comfortable 11-point lead (11 points in 2001 is much more significant than in today's game).
With their season on the line, the Knicks fought back. Latrell Sprewell started to heat up, scoring 12 fourth-quarter points. With less than 1:56 remaining, the Raptors found themselves in a one-score game.
The next possession is one of the most exciting in franchise history:
Vince Carter's midrange jumper hits everything but the bottom of the net, and the ball is up for grabs. Antonio Davis squeezes it kicks it out to the top of the key. The offense restarts.
Carter pulls up again from the mid-range. This time it's short. It's a scramble. The ball hits the deck without being touched. Carter, flying in after his own miss, grabs the board. The rim's open. He makes an easy layup, and the Raptors are back in control.
Toronto was able to hold on to the lead and close out the Knicks for the first playoff series win in franchise history. The Raptors would move on to the second round to face Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
6. 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 5 vs. Nets
Although the 2014 playoff series versus Brooklyn Nets is viewed mainly as a disappointment, there were some great playoff moments along the way. The best "on the court" moment (from a Raptors perspective) was Game 5, with the series tied at two apiece.
The Air Canada Centre was electric. It was Toronto's first playoff series in five seasons. With the series tied, the winner of Game 5 would be in complete control.
At the end of the first quarter, Toronto took a three-point lead. Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson scored eight and nine points respectively, helping the Raptors take advantage of a rambunctious Canada crowd.
At the half, their lead ballooned to 18. By the end of the third, it was up to 22. Lowry had 28 points, five assists, and zero turnovers after three quarters, controlling the entire game.
With the game almost certainly decided, the Nets started the fourth quarter by letting it rip. Mirza Teletovic hit a couple of shots, Deron Williams hit a couple of free-throws and Joe Johnson was making everything.
All of a sudden, the game didn't look as decided. With six minutes left, the Nets were within striking distance. Then, with 3:20 left, Joe Johnson hit a monster triple. All of a sudden, the game was tied.
Toronto managed to take back a five-point lead with just 10 seconds remaining. Again, it appeared as if the game was essentially over. However, Amir Johnson broke the golden rule of not fouling a jump shooter. Allen Anderson hit a corner 3-pointer while being fouled, earning a four-point play. The lead was down to one.
Both teams played the foul game. Down two, Brooklyn needed to miss a free-throw to have a chance at winning. Andray Blatche missed it and Brooklyn secured the rebound. Then unexpectedly, the Nets threw the ball into the backcourt. It caused a backcourt violation, essentially sealing the game. For good this time.
5. "[Expletive] Brooklyn"
Expectations were low heading into the 2013-14 season for the Raptors. Coming off a 34-48 season the year prior, Toronto was on the inside track to mediocrity.
Rather than battle for the bottom of the playoff standings, new team president Masai Ujiri decided to start the rebuild. Less than 20 games into the season, he traded away small forward Rudy Gay. At the time, most people believed Gay was one of the best players on Toronto's roster.
But Toronto didn't fall off after the trade. Instead, they took a huge step forward. Somehow, after a five-year drought, the Toronto Raptors were back in the NBA playoffs.
Their opponent? The Brooklyn Nets. In what will be remembered as one of the worst trades in NBA history, the Nets acquired a handful of veterans from the Boston Celtics prior to the season.
As the higher-seeded team, Toronto was hosting Game 1. As part of the celebration, the franchise opened up "Jurassic Park." An outside viewing area for fans to watch the game together.
Before the game, team president Masai Ujiri addressed the crowd. He went through the normal administrative speech, "Go Raptors!", "We are Canada!", and other quotes you'd expect to hear from a high-ranking team executive. Then, he wanted to say one last thing before entering the arena:
The crowd erupted. After years of being the NBA's forgotten franchise, Toronto wasn't here to play nice. The Raptors were here to fight back.
Of course, the series itself didn't go quite as planned. Brooklyn beat Toronto in an epic seven-game series which saw Paul Pierce swat away the Raptors' postseason chances.
But that didn't change Raptors' fans opinion of Masai Ujiri. Ujiri was different from his predecessors. He was here to change the franchise. He's done that.
4. 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Game 6 vs. 76ers
The 2001 second round series between the Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers is one of the biggest "what-if" moments in franchise history.
If Toronto were able to pull the upset, not only would the Raptors have reached the Eastern Conference Finals, it's likely that they would have reached the NBA Finals. Who knows the ripple effects that would have had in regards to Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and the rest of the Raptors roster?
While the outcome didn't favor the Raptors, the series itself is an all-time classic. Carter and Allen Iverson battled back-and-forth, each averaging greater than 30 points and five assists per contest. Perhaps the craziest stat is the number of minutes these two played. Carter averaged 44.6 minutes per game. Iverson averaged 46.
Down 3-2, Game 6 was an elimination contest for the Raptors. In the Air Canada Centre, with the season on the line, this was the most important game in franchise history at this time.
Toronto came out hot. Everyone on the offensive end was involved, with all five starters scoring at least four points. Philadelphia was intent on not letting Carter beat them. As a result, he carved them up with three assists in the opening frame.
Toronto carried a 15-point lead into the half. For a moment, it looked as if the Raptors would easily take the series to Philadelphia tied at 3-3.
But the 76ers wouldn't give up that easily. Philadelphia locked in during the third quarter, as the Raptors failed to hit anything. Toronto shot 6-23 as a team during the third, with the team's two stars, Carter and Antonio Davis combining to shoot 5-18 from the field. At the end of three, it was a two-point game.
The game was starting to slip away from Toronto. At the beginning of the fourth, the Raptors needed a stabilizing force. Morris "Mo-Pete" Peterson gave them just that. He banged two triples to start the quarter, pushing the lead to eight. At that moment, everyone could catch their breath.
Carter finished the quarter, going 6-8 from the field, and scoring 11 points in the game's closing eight minutes. Toronto survived, forcing a Game 7 and one of the most significant moments in franchise history.
3. Vince Carter scores 50 in 2001 Game 3 win against 76ers
The greatest individual performance in Raptors history without question, Vince Carter's iconic 50-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers was the definition of Vinsanity.
Before this game, no Raptor had ever scored 50. Not only was Carter was the first to do it, he did it in an epic playoff battle.
The series was tied at 1-1 heading into this contest. Game 1 saw Carter battle directly with Allen Iverson. Iverson put up 36 in a loss. Carter scored 35 in a win. Round one Carter. In Game 2 Iverson dropped 54 in a Philadelphia victory. Round two Iverson.
From the opening tip, Carter made sure he would win round three. He scored 34 first-half points, going 8-9 from deep during the process. His first half performance is still one of the best scoring halves in NBA playoff history.
After a couple of shots, Carter seemed to already know he was in for a big night.
”Once I hit three or four shots, the rim seemed like it was getting bigger,” Carter said. ”Once the shots were really falling, I started moving with the ball more, getting my feet set and following through. It was hard, to tell the truth. I was tired.”
Carter's scoring effort will be remembered for a long time. However, what makes his performance more impressive is how he excelled at the rest of his game as well. By the time the game had finished, Carter played 45 minutes, scored 50 points, dished seven assists, grabbed six boards and even swatted away four shots.
Unfortunately, Carter's failures later in this series sometimes taint the memory of his 50-point explosion. They shouldn't. This performance was a once in a lifetime level accomplishment. It stands on its own merit.
2. Raptors advance to 2016 Eastern Conference Finals
Prior to 2016, the Raptors had never advanced past the second round of the NBA playoffs. 20 years in the NBA, not one conference finals appearance.
That's why Game 7 against the Miami Heat was perhaps the most important game in franchise history. A win would allow Toronto to advance farther than ever before. A loss would result in another playoff failure against a lower-seeded opponent.
The series had developed a backyard-brawl-like physicality. Neither team scored more than 103 points in any of the first six games, with Toronto failing to cross the century mark at all. The series was played at a pace of 88.2 possessions per game, slower than any team had played all season.
Miami lost Chris Bosh to what we now know was a career-ending injury, and needed to make the games as muddy as possible if they wanted to have a chance.
The two teams exchanged multiple blows during the first quarter, with Toronto coming on top 25-24. During the second, the Raptors started to take a bit of control, leading for most of the quarter. However, the Heat would not go away. At the half, it was a six-point game.
Midway through the third, it looked as if the Raptors were finally going to pull away. The lead grew to 17. Miami was on the ropes, but the Heat battled back. At the end of the quarter, the deficit was back down to eight. Toronto had the advantage, but they weren't going to coast in this one.
Then came a team-explosion unlike what the Raptors had seen all year. Kyle Lowry, Bismack Biyombo, DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Corey Joseph and Patrick Patterson all got on the board within the first five minutes of the quarter.
With DeMar DeRozan on the bench, Toronto took over the game. The Raptors had clinched a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
1. 2016 Eastern Conference Finals: Game 4 vs. Cavaliers
The closest David ever came to slaying Goliath. For a moment, the Raptors were all tied up with LeBron James and the invincible Cleveland Cavaliers.
Coming into the contest, each team had taken care of business on their respective home courts. As the higher seeded team, Cleveland won the first two games. Game 3, the Raptors were able to ride DeMar DeRozan's hot hand to a somewhat easy victory.
Down 1-2 in the series, Toronto needed to win Game 4 to have any realistic shot of pulling off the upset. With Jonas Valanciunas still out with an ankle sprain, the odds were stacked against the Raptors.
But they came out ready. Despite 27 combined points on 58-percent shooting from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Toronto led by 16 at the break. Kyle Lowry put together a herculean effort, dropping 20 in the first half.
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Then, the Cavaliers made their run. James and Irving continued to light up the box-score, as Cleveland slowly crawled back into the game.
With 8:20 remaining in the third quarter, Toronto trailed for the first time all game. The Raptors were back to their old playoff ways. Typically Toronto choke job.
Except DeRozan didn't allow that to happen. After the Cavaliers took their first lead with 8:20 remaining, DeRozan scored 12 of the Raptors' 22 points, going 5-6 from the field in the process.
Kyle Lowry threw in six points of his own. The Raptors' backcourt, which had been mocked and dragged through the mud so many times, proved its worth. Finally, Toronto proved it could hang on the big stage.
Of course, we all know how the story finished. The Cavaliers won Game 5 and Game 6 decisively, showing that maybe this series wasn't as close as we all thought. But for one moment at least, Raptor fans were able to experience true playoff success.