It's finally over, through all the ups of November and December, to the downs of most of 2015. The Toronto Raptors arrive at the end of the 2014-15 season with the best record they've ever had. It wasn't quite 50 wins, but 49 is close enough.
Tonight, the Raptors beat the Charlotte Hornets 92-87. There was a lot to be happy about. It was announced that everyone with a ticket was eligible for a free slice of pizza, regardless of the score. There was a nice video tribute for PA man Herbie Kuhn and a stirring montage and ovation for the first ever Raps' star, Damon Stoudamire. The game itself wasn't particularly amazing, but a win is a win (as we've been saying all year). And you know what, despite all those aforementioned ups and downs, it feels good to just remember that watching a winning basketball team can be a lot of fun.
As for the game itself, there were many encouraging signs for the Raptors as they head into the playoffs. First and foremost, Kyle Lowry had a solid game with 26 points on 8-for-15 shooting (and 6-for-9 from three) to go with seven assists. DeMar DeRozan continued his strong play with 16 points on an efficient 8-for-13 from the field. And our man in the middle, Jonas Valanciunas feasted on the Hornets' overmatched big man Bismack Biyombo to the tune of 18 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Yes, Ross wasn't great and the bench didn't contribute much (and we should probably light a candle for Amir Johnson), but the team has battled hard to get to this point.
And now we reach the interesting part of the evening: who will the Raptors play in the first round? If the Raptors had lost, it would have been a date with the Washington Wizards, led by our old friend Paul Pierce. Since the Raptors won, it came down to the winner of the Hawks/Bulls game. If the Bulls won, the Raps would be going to Milwaukee for a date with Giannis. Instead: the Bulls pulled it out, 91-85, and the matchups are set.
Starting on Saturday, it's Raptors vs. Wizards. Kyle Lowry vs. John Wall. The City of Toronto vs. Paul Pierce. Oh yeah, and speaking of Lowry:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Does this team have the It Factor? Lowry: [death stare] "Yeah, we do."</p>— Daniel Reynolds (@aka_Reynolds) <a href="https://twitter.com/aka_Reynolds/status/588520653910847488">April 16, 2015</a></blockquote>
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What do you guys think of everything? The game? The season? The playoffs? Let's get into it.