The Toronto Raptors took down the Boston Celtics Friday night thanks to a timely Amir Johnson tip-in with just seven seconds left. Though fairly exciting in itself, there probably wouldn't be an article dedicated to the victory if it didn't contribute to the bigger picture.
For Toronto, it certainly did.
The win clinched the Raps' first postseason berth in five years. In a down year for the East, Toronto is currently slated as the No. 3 seed.
The Toronto Raptors have clinched a playoff spot, ending their five-year postseason drought. Toronto is currently the East's three seed.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 29, 2014
Johnson's tip-in solidified the 105-103 win over Boston, and it moved the Raptors to 41-31 on the season. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds, while DeMar DeRozan scored 30, albeit on 27 shots.
As you can see and hear below, the Toronto faithful was surely aware of what was at stake.
The last Raptors unit to appear in the postseason was the 2007-08, Chris Bosh- and Jose Calderon-led Toronto squad. Coached by Sam Mitchell, they were ousted in the first round after five games by the Orlando Magic.
Johnson, keeping in line with the Raptors' Drake motif from this season, celebrated accordingly.
Amir, shouting as media made their way into the Raptors locker room: "We made it!"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 29, 2014
With the Atlantic Division title within reach, this year's team has a chance to win a postseason series for the first time since 2001. Likely first-round matchups include the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls.
Toronto head coach Dwane Casey knows it's been a journey to get to this point. After trading Rudy Gay early in the season, some fans viewed this season effectively over before the halfway point.
Casey: "My hat is off to all those who have come through here... And to the fans... But we can't be satisfied"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 29, 2014
DeMar "It means a lot, especially for me & Amir & what we've been through here w/ the tough seasons, through the ups/downs & we stuck w/ it"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 29, 2014
J.E. Skeets, co-host of NBA TV's The Starters and formerly of the podcast The Basketball Jones, felt a certain sense of responsibility for the Raps' sudden emergence.
I leave Toronto; @Raptors clinch playoff spot March 28th! It was all my fault. Just hold on, I'm going home! Hell. Yeah.— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) March 29, 2014
In what was intended to be a rebuilding year, they've been led by career seasons from DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Nixing Andrea Bargnani from the picture certainly didn't hurt, either.
On March 28, it's set in stone: Toronto is playoff bound. And in this year's East, a series victory could even be in the cards, too.