The Toronto Raptors are officially heading back to the postseason for the first time in six years. If that weren't enough, they managed to clinch that spot in dramatic fashion.
With just under 10 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied 103-103 in Friday's home game against the Boston Celtics, point guard Kyle Lowry got to the hoop and missed a tough lay-in. However, forward Amir Johnson was at the rim after being involved in a pick-and-roll and managed a putback to give the Raptors a two-point lead. Jared Sullinger missed a potential winning three-pointer on the last possession and the Raptors held on for the 105-103 win.
At 41-31, the Raptors have already matched their win total from 2007-08, the last season in which they made the postseason (and won just a single game in a first-round dismissal at the hands of the Orlando Magic). This year, the East's third-best team has hopes of winning a playoff series for the second time in the franchise's 19-season history. Currently, they would match up against the sixth-place Washington Wizards in the first round.
This playoff berth has been assumed for some time, but it's worth remembering just how remarkable the Raptors' season has been. In early December, the Raptors sent grossly inefficient scorer Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings for a collection of veterans that included John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, and Greivis Vasquez. At the time, it looked like a cap-clearing move that would begin a slow rebuilding process. Instead, the Raptors have gone 35-19 since the deal, one of the best records in the NBA over that stretch. A team that appeared to be setting itself up for the future has become a real player in the East.
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