Dwane Casey will return to Toronto as the Detroit Pistons head coach to take on the Raptors tonight. It will be the first time back since being fired at the end of the 2017-18 campaign when his former team was clinically swept 4-0 by LeBron’s Cavaliers. I’m sure Casey will get the royal treatment: the standing ovation, the jumbotron montage, the hugs and the handshakes. And rightly so. He was the coach that took the Raptors from obscurity to relevant, from 23 wins in 2011 to a franchise record 59 wins in 2017. He won four Atlantic Division titles in a five-year period and in 2018 was named NBA Coach of the Year. He has the most wins as Raptors coach with 320 from 624 games. Yes, Casey accomplished a lot during his seven seasons as a Raptor.
With that, let’s take a look at the his 25 greatest wins ahead of the Raptors-Pistons match tonight.
(In no particular order!)
25. Raptors 104, Cavs 96 (Dec, 2011)
This was Casey’s first win as a Raptor. First wins are sweet. On top of being his first win for the franchise, it was also Casey’s first road win against a Cav’s unit that had just drafted Kyrie Irving. Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan hit 20 points each.
24. The DeRozan 52-point Game (Jan, 2017)
”Tonight, DeMar DeRozan played like a superstar,” said Casey. The New Year’s Day, 131-127 win against the Bucks was an overtime victory that had 12 lead changes. DeRozan’s stunning line included 52 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. He went 17-of-29 from the field, shot 5-of-9 from the arc, and nailed all 13 free throws.
23. Raptors 128, Hawks 84 (Dec, 2016)
Terrence Ross summed it up best: “Everybody’s an elite scorer here. Tonight was just one of those nights everybody had it going.’’ DeRozan had 21, Lowry and Patrick Patterson had 17 each. It was a classic 44-point rout.
22. Game 2 Raptors 96, Heat 92 (May, 2016)
The overtime win against the Heat was a Game 2 thriller that tied the series at 1-1. After a 29-19 start, the Raps stalled and gave up a 17-2 run to the Heat in the third. Kyle Lowry hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds to go which sealed it. The game featured 21-points and no turnovers from DeMarre Carroll.
21. Game 2 Raptors 130, Wizards 119 (April, 2017)
DeRozan went off for 37 points and the Raptors went 2-0 up for the first time in franchise history. But the Raptors were deep in this one with a slew of match-winners: Jonas Valanciunas had 19-and-14; C.J. Miles went off for 18 points; Delon Wright scored 11; Ibaka chipped in with 10; and Lowry double-doubled with 13 points and 12 assists. Casey praised DeMar, saying “He did an excellent job of reading what the defense was doing to him and making them pay,” and Lowry called him “an MVP-type calibre player.”
20. Game 6 Raptors 92, Bucks 89 (April, 2017)
The Raptors won on the road to clinch the series 4-2. After a wearing, taxing six-game series against the Bucks, Casey was critical of a sloppy third term. “We’ve got to do a better job of executing in the third quarter. We didn’t think it was going to be easy but we made it harder than it needed to be,” he said. DeRozan shot 32 points. Serge Ibaka was influential.
19. Game 7 Raptors 89, 84 Pacers (May, 2016)
The most telling statistic in this crucial game ended up being this: Raptors went to the free throw line 17 times, compared to just eight trips for the Pacers. It was incredible how the Raptors won this one with a shooting percentage of 38. Norm Powell was a rookie at the time, but put in 13 points. JV grabbed 15 rebounds. Casey paid homage to Myles Turner. “That young man is going to be a player and I want to congratulate them because Frank (Vogel) did a heck of a job. They made adjustments, we made adjustments, that team right there is a big-time team.”
18. Game 3 Raptors, 99, Cavs 84 (May, 2016)
Bismack Biyombo set a Raptors playoff record with 26 rebounds as the Raptors downed the Cavs which was their first loss in the postseason. The Raptors were trailing 0-2 in the series and won the next two. This win gave the Raptors hope they could take down the Cavs. DeRozan potted 32. “It’s a long series,” Casey said. “It’s not over with yet, but everybody thought we were going to get swept. I think that fuels us and if that’s what it takes, so be it.”
17. Game 2 Raptors 100, Nets 95 (April, 2014)
Game 2 was Casey’s first playoff win as a Raptor coach. DeRozan scored 30 and JV double-doubled with 15 points and 14 rebounds. DeRozan bounced back after going 3-from-13 from the field in the previous playoff opener. DeRozan scored 17 out of the Raptors 36 final quarter points. “He bounced back, refocused,” said Casey. “Making those free throws down the stretch was huge. For him to come through after a tough first game and everyone doubting him, I was really happy with that.”
16. Raptors 123, Magic 88 (Dec, 2012)
Both teams were injury plagued, but the Raptors were super efficient with eight turnovers and 56 percent from the field. “We weren’t trying to run up the score, but our guys were making shots,” Casey said. “We had 33 assists which meant we were moving the basketball around. We were playing the game the right way.”
15. Raptors 112, Hawks 78 (Nov, 2017)
The Raptors scorched the Hawks by 34 points in a match where Casey leaned heavily on some bench guys like Norm Powell who scored 17 points. DeRozan played 28 minutes with eight assists and two points, and sat out the fourth quarter. Casey said the young guys were clicking. “They were playing together, screening for each other. The spacing was good. The passing was good.”
14. Fred VanVleet Night, Raptors 133, Cavs 99 (Jan, 2017)
VanVleet racked up a career best 22-point night (6-of-8 three-pointers) as the Raptors played without Lowry and Ibaka. JV hit the boards aggressively for 15 points and 18 rebounds and the supporting cast in Siakam, Powell and Poeltl (12-and-12) made it a rare 34-point win over Cleveland. The Raptors shot just 18 threes.
13. Raptors 113, Lakers 88 (Dec, 2016)
On a night where the Raptors dominated the Lakers by 33 points (see second quarter: 41-26 at 75 percent from the field) Casey was more impressed they kept L.A. to less than 90 points. DeRozan said, “Case don’t say nothing about offense. Case don’t care. Everything that comes out of his mouth is defense.”
12. Raptors 120, Nets 87 (Dec, 2017)
Lowry hit a triple-double. DeRozan scored 31. The 33-point win extended the Raptors record against the Nets to nine consecutive wins. DeRozan said: ”He [Lowry] really wanted [the triple double] and I’m glad he got what he wanted.”
11. Raptors 128, Sixers 94 (Nov, 2014)
Almost everyone but Lowry thought it wasn’t all that surprising that DeRozan still managed to put up 30-points while trying to fight off a flu bug. This was the largest victory over the Sixers. The win was the Raptors 16th in 17 meetings over Philly. Casey said, “there’s a million different ways to skin a cat. We’ve got to be the best Toronto Raptors team we can be. Offensively, there’s a niche we have to find. Most of all what I liked was our defensive intensity.”
10. The Ben Uzoh Breakout Party, Raptors 98, Nets 67 (Apr, 2012)
The guy who played 16 games for the Raptors, Ben Uzoh, had a night out with a career triple double: 12 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds. It was the first triple double by a Raptors player since Alvin Williams (2001). “He had a heck of a game,” Casey said. “I doubted his point guard skills at times but I just watched a young man grow in his two 10-day contracts.”
9. The Amir Johnson High-Club, Raptors 106, Lakers 94 (Dec, 2013)
It was the game where Amir showed the world he could score, with 32 points against the Lakers. The final margin was 12, so without his powerhouse contribution the win would have been in doubt. Rudy Gay was a key omission for this one, as he was involved in a seven-player trade with the Kings. Even with Kobe back in the lineup, it was Amir’s night.
8. Lou’s 36, Raptors 110, Cavs 93 (Nov, 2014)
After the initial barrage by the Cavs, on the back of three straight losses, the Raptors were able to chip away, play smart and make good decisions to ultimately overrun Cleveland by a healthy 17-points. Lou Williams starred with 36-points. Casey said, “I’m surprised that 36 is a career-high because he’s a longtime scorer. He understands how to attack people’s feet, get into their body and initiate the contact. But most of all, I’m impressed with Lou’s defense.”
7. The 2017 Season Opener, Raptors 117, Bulls 101 (Oct, 2017)
JV started the 2017 season with a 23 point-15 rebound game as the Raptors won their encounter with the Bulls by 16 points. C.J. Miles scored 22 on his debut, Powell added 15 points and Wright had 13. The Raptors went 13-from-29 shots from the arc with 26 assists. “I loved the way the ball moved,” Casey said. “We’ve got to play that way.”
6. Raptors 101, Pacers 94 (Mar, 2015)
There’s not too many single stat games that catch your eye, but Biyombo had a knack for compiling monster nights of rebounds. Against the Pacers, in the Raptors seven point win, he collected 25 rebounds. DeRozan and Lowry both scored 28. Casey became the first Raptors coach to win 200 games. DeRozan played his 509th career game and tied with Bosh for third on the franchise career games list.
5. Raptors 107, Celtics 97 (Feb, 2016)
DeRozan blasted 43 points in their 10-point win over the Celtics. The Raptors were down by 17, but with the help of new teammates Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, they reeled in the deficit without Lowry. Tucker said: “We’ve got so many weapons and so many possibilities. Defensively, I think we can really wreak havoc.”
4. Raptors 99, Suns 96 (Jan, 2012)
The 5-13 Raptors defeated the 6-11 Suns by 3-points. It wasn’t pretty. But those who watched this game would have seen Andrea Bargnani go off for 36 in 42 minutes including four 3-pointers and 12-from-12 free throws. For a brief moment Raptors fans and Casey thought the kid had arrived.
3. Raptors 114, Sixers 109 (Dec, 2017)
The Raptors came back from 22-points down to win by five. DeRozan hit 45 points, with six 3-pointers from nine shots. Casey said “I thought he was a young Ray Allen. That’s what we need from him. It opens up the floor, especially on nights when we just didn’t have it. We were playing in mud in the first half.”
2. Raptors 99, Cavs 97 (Feb, 2015)
Lowry tied Andrea Bargnani (579) for second on the Raptors all-time made three-pointers list, as he chalked up a 43-point night to beat the Cavs. Lowry said: “My first game winner in my illustrious 10-year career.” The Raptors bench unit outscored the Cavs’ bench 37-23 — Ross with 15 and 11 from Biyombo.
1. 2016 Season Opener, Raptors 109, Pistons 91 (Oct, 2016)
DeRozan opened the 2016-17 season with 40 points, making 17-from-27 from the field and 100 percent from the free throw line. DeRozan said: “Preseason stunk. But you’ve got to do it and now the real deal is here and you’re just trying to catch a rhythm.”