Competing as they are in the historically horrendous Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors have been perhaps unfairly overlooked as a potential playoff spoiler.
But that won’t stop them from taking a moment to celebrate tying their franchise record for wins in a season.
With games against the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks rounding out the regular-season slate, it stands to reason the Raptors will likely add a new entry to the record book within the next few days.
What happens after that is anyone’s guess: While the Raptors are currently slated to play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, there’s still a chance they could leapfrog the Chicago Bulls in the conference standings.
Some, including Hoops Habit’s Michael Modahl, think the Raptors stand a much better chance with the No. 3 seed—a slot they’ve held onto for much of the year.
That’s why I consider it imperative that Toronto flip with Chicago and secure the three seed to avoid a match up with the Nets in the first round. As it stands right now, Toronto would host the Nets and the Bulls would host the Wizards. Take a look up and down those rosters and the choice of match ups becomes very clear.
Whatever their playoff fate, the future looks bright indeed for the traditionally downtrodden Raptors, as they have a young core of DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross signed through at least the 2014-15 season.
Indeed, DeRozan in particular seems to appreciate the gravity of his team’s impressively steady turnaround, as he relayed to the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly back in March:
The energy that we have and, you know, the passion that we have, just wanting to make it to the playoffs and, you know, the most criticism that I’ve had since I’ve gotten here, having the tough years. Sometimes, the emotions just get to you, when you know you’re doing something right, that you haven’t been doing previously.
The Raptors are likely a few years and a slew of savvy moves away from being considered true conference contenders, but if they can somehow manage to play their way into the second round and put a scare in the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers, it’ll have been a season of redemption indeed.