Toronto Raptors: 5 most important games in team history

Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors celebrate his series-clinching shot.2019-05-12 Kawhi Leonard2
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors celebrate his series-clinching shot.2019-05-12 Kawhi Leonard2 /
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Vince Carter, Raptors
8 Dec 2000: Vince Carter #15 of the Toronto Raptors Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport /

Game 7 vs. The 76ers 2001 (defined the Carter era)

Before 2016, this second-round loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was the peak of basketball fandom in Canada.

Think back to Raptors basketball in 2001. Half man, half amazing, our star Vince Carter was not only the most entertaining player in the NBA, but he was also on pace to be one of the best.

Peaking at the very end of Michael Jordan’s career, the NBA was frantically searching for their next superstar.  Someone who not only could dominate the game, but resonate with the fans on a spiritual level.

At 24 years old, Vince had just come off a run in which he averaged 27 points a game, leading his team to 47 wins, all while treating fans to the greatest demonstration of aerial acrobatics since Cirque de Soleil.

He knocked off the Knicks in five games and then went on to have a legendary duel with league MVP Allen Iverson.  Swapping 50-point games, and for two weeks, stealing the show from the Shaq/Kobe Lakers who were in the process of sweeping the West.

So what happened?

Vince Carter and the Raptors just couldn’t prevail.

In Game 7, Iverson and Carter shot a combined 14/45. Here’s the difference: Iverson still found ways to be effective. He stayed aggressive, drew the defense in like a magnet, and dished out 16 assists. Carter had a decent game, but he was taken out of it.

He was taken out of the game when met by the full opposition of a top-tier defense. He was relegated to be a shooter.

Down by one with two seconds left, the Raptors had a shot to win the series at the buzzer. Everyone knew the ball was going to Vince. They ran a pin-down screen for him and he caught the ball on the wing. Pump fakes his man. And has an open look at the horn.

No good. Sixers win.

93. Final. 87. 81. 88