Welcome to Forgotten Raptors Playoffs! All throughout the 2019 NBA Playoffs, we’ll be looking back at past Raptors series — going all the way back to 2000 — and digging into the hidden, underrated, forgotten or straight-up wacky subplots and memories!
Today we look at Toronto’s disappointing first-round exit in 2002.
Toronto Raptors (42-40, 7th seed) vs. Detroit Pistons (50-32, 2nd seed)
Detroit defeats Toronto 3-2 in the best-of-five series.
What Everyone Remembers
The series was tied 2-2, the Raptors trailed by 3 points in Game 5, the clock was winding down, there were no timeouts left... and Chris Childs forgot the score.
What You Should Probably Remember Instead
The 2001-2002 Raptors season was one of disappointment, despite their making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. After the seven-game affair with Philadelphia in the 2001 Playoffs, and the offseason re-signings of Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, and Alvin Williams, and the acquisition of Hakeem Olajuwon... everything seemed to be going in the right direction.
But then Carter got hurt, Olajuwon was a bust, and at one point the team lost 13 straight games (and 17 of 18).
Still, they made the postseason and in a best-of-five series, anything can happen, even when you’re the seventh seed facing the two-seed. But Corliss Williamson was there to make sure Detroit was not going to lose.
Corliss Williamson, you’re thinking. Wait, wasn’t he a Raptor?
Yes! He was! And he used this series to prove to Raptors management they made a mistake by trading him away.
You’ll have to follow the bouncing ball a little bit here, but the Raptors traded Doug Christie,
whose wife who was unhappy here in Toronto, to Sacramento following the 2000 campaign. Williamson had played extremely well in Sacramento the previous year, averaging 10 points and four boards in just 22 minutes a night as their starting small forward.
But Lenny Wilkens couldn’t find a way to use Williamson; as a tweener, he wasn't quite big enough to play power forward but not quick enough to play small forward, in Wilkens’ old-school mind, so after just 42 games Toronto traded him to Detroit for Jerome “JYD” Williams.
The trade worked out for everyone, as Williams’ blue-collar work ethic was a hit in Toronto and a great fit next to Carter and Davis, and Williamson put up career-best numbers in his first 1.5 seasons in Detroit.
All of which led to the 2002 playoffs, where Williamson, despite being two inches shorter and a heck of lot slower, took JYD to the woodshed.
As Detroit’s sixth man, Williamson was second on the team in both scoring and rebounding, and in the pivotal Game 5, he scored a playoff career high 23 points, including a backbreaking baseline lay-in off an inbounds with 30 seconds left. JYD simply got lost on the play; I distinctly remember cursing at him (through my TV, naturally) for a good 30 seconds following the play. That bucket nearly put the the game out of reach; an ensuing Dell Curry three-pointer and a missed Chucky Atkins free throw set Childs up for his infamous blunder.
Ultimately, the Raptors made the right move by trading Williamson for Williams, but in this series, and on that night, he surely made them think twice about it.
What do you remember from the opening round in 2002? Let us know in the comments!