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Raptors Schadenfreude Rankings: What happened to the teams that beat Toronto?

With the Wizards imploding, let’s review the seven teams that once defeated the Raptors in the playoffs, and where they are now. Feels good, doesn’t it?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Washington Wizards are in the news these days, and their implosion seems delightfully nigh, I felt, as a responsible Raptors fan, it was my duty to enjoy some schadenfreude. As the tenor of that word suggests, schadenfreude is of German origin, translating to “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”

I can think of a no more fitting emotion as we watch the 2018-19 Wizards collapse in a disgusting heap. The players don’t like each other, the management is stupid, the coach is overwhelmed, and the whole franchise deserves to be wiped from our collective memory. Do I care if the Wizards don’t have a future, and will have difficulty rebuilding? No, definitely not!

Is this bitterness talking? Of course it is. The Raptors were once embarrassed by the Wizards back in the opening round of the 2015 Playoffs. Toronto entered that series the better team on paper — a then-franchise-best 49 wins, home court advantage — finishing a full three games ahead of Washington in the regular season standings. But we all know what happened next, and how it felt.

Which brings us back to schadenfreude — and the broader reason for this writing.

The Raptors have been to the playoffs ten times in franchise history, each time being eliminated before achieving the ultimate prize. In the course of those events, Toronto has lost at the hands of seven teams (or eight, depending on how you count a re-located franchise). In the spirit of schadenfreude (and bitterness), let’s discuss what happened to each of those teams after they eliminated the Raptors. Did they implode? Are they still struggling? Where are they now in comparison to the mighty Raptors? We’ll even given them a ranking on the Schadenfreude Scale (which I just made up) to document the amount of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning — well, you know the rest now.

I don’t know about you, but I feel fantastic already.

New York Knicks

Raptors lose 3-0 in the First Round in 2000

This was the Raptors very first taste of the postseason, and folks, it went down like raw chicken. Everything Toronto had going for them in their successful regular season — namely Vince Carter — imploded early and often against the attack of Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, and Patrick Ewing. This was rough stuff.

Fortunately, since that moment in time, maybe you’ve heard: the Knicks have become an ongoing joke in the NBA for a good 15 or so years. They’ve made the playoffs just four times since 2000, they’ve been embroiled in more than one off-court fiasco, they’ve motored through 12 coaches, they’ve wasted draft picks, they’ve traded away good players for bad, they’ve hired and then fired Phil Jackson to be their presumptive saviour. And while right now the Knicks are more of a beloved batch of ragamuffins (and who doesn’t love Kristaps Porzingis?), it feels like a quality bit of cosmic justice to see this franchise, the jewel of the NBA, flounder for years in the wake of one solitary playoff series win against the upstart Raptors.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 6 out of 10

Watching the Raptors get roasted for three quick and embarrassing games left an indelible mark on my psyche back in 2000, I won’t lie. But we should remember: the Raptors would get to exorcise these particular demons the following year. And the Knicks really are just so hapless, it’s hard to stay too bitter. You just have to laugh — which is the point of this whole exercise!

Philadelphia 76ers

Raptors lose 4-3 in the Second Round in 2001

In what should have been the Raptors’ year, the Sixers, led by Allen Iverson, managed to sneak by Toronto right on into the NBA Finals (only to get squashed by the Lakers). How did they do it? Oh, maybe you’ve seen the clip.

From this moment on, it was Iverson who was talked up as the Man of the Eastern Conference, when, by rights, it should have been Carter. That Vince would eventually pout his way out of Toronto (and rediscover himself elsewhere, which we’ll get to), only adds insult to injury.

Fortunately, the Sixers were never more than a middling team for the next decade a half. They made the playoffs eight times since 2001, but never again ascended to the same heights as that 2000 run. In that time, they cycled through a bunch of coaches and distinct eras — including one memorably bad year in 2009-10 when a team featuring Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Iverson, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert, Jrue Holiday, and, sure, Jason Kapono, could only manage 27 wins. Shortly after that, the Process began and the Sixers became an out-and-out laughing-stock. They’re more dangerous now — but they also always feel a couple of bad breaks away from the abyss.

We shall remain vigilant.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 9 out of 10

This one always has to rank high, just out of principle, and even if the Raptors and Sixers haven’t played a meaningful basketball game against each other since before social media was invented. The Raptors were on the cusp of becoming something truly special, and instead all we got was... nothing. Damn.

Detroit Pistons

Raptors lose 3-2 in the First Round in 2002

Many Raptors fans barely remember this series even taking place. Vince Carter was injured, the Raptors were out of it, and then suddenly, thanks to a late-season burst, they made the playoffs. For the most part, the Pistons picked them apart, going up 2-0 in their best of five series. Until once again, there was a late burst from the Raptors and it was a series. (That Toronto then completely blew thanks to a classic bonehead anti-late burst move from Chris Childs; whatever.)

Since then, it’s hard to find a franchise in the East that has had longer and more consistent success that didn’t involve LeBron James (more on him in a bit, obviously). From 2002 to 2009, the Pistons would not only go to the playoffs, but they’d challenge for and eventually win an NBA Title in 2004. Not bad.

Ah, but then, to remain thematically consistent for this entry, came the late burst — or should I say: the karmically deserved downturn. Since their heyday in the 00s, the Pistons have spent the entirety of the past decade trying to get back to their former glory. They’ve made the playoffs just once since 2009, and didn’t even win a game in that series! Hoo boy, that smells good.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 7 out of 10

Maybe I’m suffering from some form of recency bias here due to the recent Dwane Casey Revenge Game, but I’m more than ready to watch the Pistons lose a bunch more games. Who’s with me?

New Jersey Nets

Raptors lose 4-2 in the First Round in 2007

After some dark days in the mid-00s thanks to the departure of Vince Carter, the Raptors’ surprising appearance in the playoffs — as the higher seed no less! — was cause for celebration. That is, until we realized it would mean taking on, and defeating, our former shining light: Carter. As you’ll recall, things did not go well.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of watching this particular Raptors squad, with overwhelmed Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford struggling mightily while Andrea Bargnani looked on, agape. In one sense, Toronto deserved to be torn apart by the wily Jason Kidd (even if he sucks, and we hate him). But did it have to be Vince wielding the knife? We had such hope for this young Raptors team (misplaced hope, sure, but hope nonetheless). That it was so summarily dismissed by this go-nowhere Nets team really bums me out.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 9 out of 10

Am I happy the Nets relocated? That they stupidly hired Billy King to run their operation (into the ground)? That Jason Kidd eventually got run out of town? (More on this later.) That they’re just now, a decade later, finally taking a few steps towards success in Brooklyn after all of these events? Hmmm, couldn’t be me.

Orlando Magic

Raptors lose 4-1 in the First Round in 2008

Losing to Dwight Howard comes with many indignities. He is arguably the least deserving eventual Hall of Famer in my life time. There’s no question he deserves to be considered as such — but also: god, he is the absolute worst. Has it been enjoyable to watch him kill one franchise after another in subsequent years? You better believe it.

Anyway, this 2008 Magic team was on the upswing, and would go on to the Finals in 2009, before Howard would engineer a way out of town to begin his reverse-Kung Fu run of anti-wisdom. Since then, the Magic have literally been one of the worst franchises out there, with an absolutely comical series of franchise pivots into... well, nothing. Despite having top 15 picks in all five of the past NBA Drafts, they’ve yet to cobble together a team that could win more than 35 games. (This year, with the team at 9-8, could be the year they finally get over the hump!) More than that: there’s a spiritual funk around this franchise. Maybe it’s the curse of Dwight Howard, or maybe it’s the restorative justice of the hollow victories of yesteryear boomeranging back around on them. Whatever the case, I’m fine with it.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 7 out of 10

Much like the 2000 Knicks, it’s hard to hate too much on the Magic now, or to derive as much pleasure from their continued stretch of shame. I do enjoy reading about all of Dwight Howard’s failures though — and we didn’t even address Hedo Turkoglu, which represents a surprising amount of restraint on my part.

Brooklyn Nets

Raptors lose 4-3 in the First Round in 2014

Now we’re getting somewhere, emotionally. This season and playoff series were the start of the Raptors’ nascent rise through the Eastern Conference. It was a surprise the team even found themselves in this situation against, once again, the Nets. And it was surprise (to some) that they’d have a team featuring veterans like Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Kevin Garnett on the ropes. (Remember: the Raps were up 3-2 with Game 7 coming in Toronto.)

Losing to the Nets was the first taste of real defeat for the Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan Raptors, so in one sense it was a useful formative experience. This team wanted more, and the bitter defeat in 2014 pushed them to work harder to get it. Speaking as an outsider, I have a different take: I was supremely happy to watch the Nets mortgage their future, and their future’s future, just for this one series win. The Nets would go on to get torn apart by the LeBron-Dwyane Wade Heat, and then were never heard from again. Yeehaw.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 9 out of 10

I know it’s cool now to marvel at how the Nets, with former Raptor Sean Marks as GM, have used savvy to dig themselves out of the hole they themselves dug, but I once again have a different take: I would be quite content if the Nets no longer existed. Go ahead and just relocate them off the planet! There, I said it.

Washington Wizards

Raptors lose 4-0 in the First Round in 2015

Ah, now we arrive at the reason for this entire (too long) column. Since embarrassing the Raptors in 2015, the Wizards have just sort of been there. They’ve made the playoffs two out of the three subsequent seasons, looking just frisky enough to do some damage, but not cohesive enough to actually follow through. It takes some doing to have the self-proclaimed best backcourt in the East, and still continuously fail, so I appreciate the Wizards’ misguided efforts.

I think what stings most here is the idea that the Wizards were somehow ever a good team. John Wall and Bradley Beal are good players, yes, and there’s a certain utility to guys like Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat. To have the recurring spectre of Paul Pierce on hand helps too (especially against Toronto). But this iteration of the Wizards was always a mirage, only good enough to put together a few illusory wins to stave off their imminent implosion.

That the current version of the Wizards is stocked with some of the most unlikeable players in the league — Dwight Howard! Austin Rivers! Jeff Green! Markieff Morris! — just feels like poetry. We don’t care for the Wizards, we want them to fail, and they’ve brought in every player they could to make us feel less and less guilty about having such emotions. The bitterness flows, but it is also calming — we in Toronto, and the Raptors, are untroubled by what befalls the Wizards now. They are, and will continue to be, of no major concern.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 9 out of 10

In two words: good riddance.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Raptors lose 4-2 in the Conference Finals in 2016

Raptors lose 4-0 in the Second Round in 2017

Raptors lose 4-0 in the Second Round in 2018

LeBron James is good at basketball. We don’t need to rehash this one.

Schadenfreude Ranking: 10 out of 10

Making a meal out of Cleveland suffering will never not be satisfying to me personally. The entire franchise — owned by Dan Gilbert, an evil and petty man — is toxic, and if it had not been for LeBron James being born in nearby Akron, Ohio, we’d never have to hear about them at all, ever. Michael Jordan shooting the Cavs into the sun would have been the very last word.

Nevertheless, the calculus here is simple: the Cavaliers have not been to the playoffs without LeBron in 20 years, and it could very well be that long until they taste the postseason again. I, for one, could not be happier in that knowledge.