Updated: Mar 25, 2021
From the inception of the Raptors franchise, to last year's incredible playoff run, fans have never witnessed a series end favourably in only four games. Time and time again, we have watched as Lebron and others brushed us aside on their way to glory. Now, after 25 years in the making, the Toronto Raptors have swept an opponent out of the playoffs without dropping a game.
Sunday nights' series capping blowout against the Nets was just another historic moment for the Raps in Orlando. With three new franchise records, and an NBA record as well, Nurse played thirteen different guys on their way to securing a place in the second round.
Ibaka led the way early, shooting 9/10 with 19 points as the Raps finished with a playoff record 77 in the half. With monstrous play from the bench unit, the team was already well on its way to matching its record-setting 134 point total from game one of the series. Before all was said and done, the Raps would pour in 150 points, finishing the game shooting 55.4% (56-101) from the field, and 46.8% (22-47) from three.
This production came from a committed team with fantastic chemistry, playing all around selfless basketball. With 39 assists on the night, led by Siakam on a career-high 10, the Raptors kept the Nets skating around the hardwood all night long. Before the night was done, all thirteen Raps players who saw the floor would end the night with at least 1 assist.
When Raptors leader, Kyle Lowry, left the floor with a foot injury after playing only 9 minutes in the first half, the second unit would need to step up. They proved unfazed and up for the task. The famed Raptors "Bench Mob" stole the show by throwing down 100 points, with four of those players (Norm, Ibaka, TD and Matt Thomas) in double digits. This number passes both the regular-season (1970-71 Warriors | 94 points) and playoff (2011 Mavericks | 86 points) records, showing that Nurse and co. have a system that all players have bought into.
Unfortunately for the Nets, this series was spoiled due to injuries and inconveniences. Toronto outscored Brooklyn by an average of over 20 points a game, with multiple 30+ point leads across different games. Each Raptors star took their turn carving up a Nets defence that could never quite stop all the options Nick Nurse had at his disposal. When the franchise stars return, and Brooklyn's rotation and coaching problems are fixed, this series rematch will be an absolute joy to watch.
Next on the horizon for the Raptors is a Celtics team coming off of their own 4-0 series victory against an injury-riddled 76ers. For any fan without a bone to pick, this series could just be the best back and forth of this years playoffs. With both squads fired up from tearing apart their first-round competition, look for a high tempo opener Aug. 27th, as two rested contenders battle for their chance at glory.
The Raptors have proven repeatedly this season that they are a true threat in the east. The media had no faith in this team a year ago. They said without Kawhi, management should trade veteran players and push hard into a rebuild. A season later, the Raptors are a proven top-two seed with one of the deepest bench units in the NBA. This team sits tested and ready to face all challenges standing in its way. A team counted out. A franchise counted out. Sunday's first-round victory is only the beginning. #WeTheNorth