Over the years the Toronto Raptors are not new to cracking open the record books and breaking franchise and NBA records. Last night, they broke another record making more history.
Entering last night, the Toronto Raptors had four regular season games remaining. Playing at home to the Indiana Pacers on the final OVO night of the season. The Raptors had a chance to take care of business and lock up first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, as well as also be the most winningest Raptors team in team history with over 56 wins.
Locking up first place in the East means home court advantage throughout the playoffs; besides the NBA Finals depending on if they make it there and who they were to face. Big accomplishment on the line nonetheless. The Raptors came out flying against the Pacers starting the first quarter on a roll with a 22-6 run and ultimately leading Indiana 26-14 behind Serge Ibaka’s ten points after 12 minutes of play in Toronto.
The second quarter is where the Raptors continued to roll, holding their 12-point lead into halftime. Coming out of the half, the Raptors dominance continued. Only 24 minutes away from clinching the Eastern Conference. Heading into the 4th, the Raptors had a 23-point lead behind Ibaka’s 25 points and 8 rebounds. He ended up finishing the game with as the Raptors leading scoring in just 25 minutes played as the bench came in in the 4th finishing off the game smoothly with everybody getting play time. The Raptors never trailed in this game, leading all the way through from tip-off till the final whistle. You can definitely say business was taken care of.
With the final seconds ticking down and Raptors dribbling out the ball at half court, the crowd got to their feet knowing what was it at stake with this victory. The 2017-2018 Toronto Raptors now have 57 regular season wins and is now the most winningest team to date in the franchise’s history. Also with this win they, have clinched first place in the conference for the first time ever.
The Toronto Raptors now look ahead to a bigger and better task. The season is not over, and with the team sitting at 57 wins with three games remaining, the team now focuses on aiming to get 60 wins on the season. Although it won’t be easy, the Raptors will have to get through the Orlando Magic tomorrow night at the ACC. This is the final home game of the season for Toronto before the playoffs. After this game, they head to Detroit for a back-to-back against the Pistons who were recently eliminated from playoff contention. After both of those games, the Raptors then head to Miami for game 82. A potential first round match up against the Heat, these two teams know each other very well. With Dwayne Wade’s return to Miami, him and the Raptors previously had a playoff series in 2016 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals where the Heat forced Toronto to game 7. This won’t be an easy task for Toronto. Will Dwane Casey realize this history that is at stake and risk playing his starters before the playoffs to get them geared up and risk injury to secure history and a 60th regular season win? Or will Casey rest his starters and give the strong bench and young guns some high minutes in the season finale? It could all come down to if that game actually means something and the Raptors were to sit at 59 wins entering that game.
Although Miami can be a potential first round match up for Toronto, they currently sit in 6th place with two teams below them by just 1 game - the Milwaukee bucks in 7th, and the Washington Wizards in 8th. This means that the Toronto Raptors can see any of these teams in the first round. The Raptors are 1-1 this season vs the Heat, losing their first match-up by one point in Toronto. They then defeated Miami by three on their home court. If these two teams meet up again in the playoffs, we could be in for another 7-game series.
If the Raptors were to meet the Milwaukee Bucks in round one, they too sit at a 1-1 record against the Bucks this season. Both were high scoring affairs the Raptors seem to have a tough time containing the Greek All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo - who had 20+ points in both meetings - and Khris Middleton. Both of their length at the Small Forward position can cause problems for the Raptors as it has been all season even with the come up of OG Anunoby. Back in the 2017 playoff series between the two, Antetokounmpo averaged 24.8 ppg while Middleton averaged 14.5ppg; the two highest scorers on the team during that series. My point exactly. It would be a tough battle. Potentially another 7-game series on the brinks if these two teams met up once again in a first round clash.
And last but not least, the Washington Wizards. Yet another team the Raptors are familiar with. Toronto currently has a 2-2 record against the Wizards this season with all meetings having a point differential of just under 11 points. Although the Wizards swept the Raptors back in 2015, this is a new look Raptors team which is currently at its best. The Wizards, as well, have a great squad with the all-star of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards have had a tough season with the loss of John Wall throughout due to injury, but this team has had high expiations all season. Not a lot of people had them seeded 8th going into the NBA playoffs, and they still tend to give the Raptors problems.
None of these teams should be overlooked, as all three are great. It’s only a matter of time before the historic Raptors find out who they will play in round one of the 2018 NBA playoffs kicking off on April 14th.
But for now, the quest for 60 wins and more history is on.