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!
Let’s go back five years, to the start of this current era of Raptors success: the 2014 first round, against the Brooklyn Nets.
Toronto Raptors (48-34, 3rd seed) vs. Brooklyn Nets (44-38, 6th seed)
Brooklyn defeats Toronto 4-3 in the best-of-seven series.
What Everyone Remembers
“Fuck Brooklyn”; Terrence Ross stole the ball!
What You Should Probably Remember Instead
Masai Ujiri’s “Fuck Brooklyn” in Jurassic Park and TRoss’s steal are iconic Raptor moments that you should never forget, to be honest. But we can’t let them overshadow Kyle Lowry’s play in this series.
We’re all far too familiar, now, with the “Kyle Lowry is a poor playoff performer” narrative. So let’s cast our memories way back to 2014, before the Raptors’ extended playoff run of 2016 and before their aborted playoff run of 2015 — the two playoff runs that are mostly responsible for said narrative.
The Raptors are — unexpectedly! — back in the playoffs after a six-year absence. A scrappy team of youngsters and cast-offs, they’re playing the Nets, with the veteran pedigree of Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Mr. “don’t have ‘it’”, Paul Pierce. This series went seven games, and it only went seven because Kyle Lowry was awesome in Games 5 and 7.
Let’s look at Game 5. The Raptors were up by 22 heading into the fourth quarter, 91-69, and things were looking pretty good. After all, teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 series generally increase their odds of winning the series by about 30%. But, the Raptors may have started counting those chickens before they hatched, as Brooklyn stormed all the way back to tie it at 101.
Lowry then scored seven of Toronto’s next 10, including an awesome step-back three-pointer to break a 106-106 tie with 1:04 left that put the Raptors ahead for good. Lowry finished with 36 points on 19 shots.
The Raptors stunk in Game 6, but Game 7 at home? Lowry was fantastic again, with 28 points on 19 shots, getting to the foul line 14 times. With three minutes left and the Raptors trailing by nine, Lowry scored eight of Toronto’s next 12, including this incredible runner to cut Brooklyn’s lead to one with 18 seconds to go, one of my all-time favourite Raptors memories:
Of course, all of that tends to be forgotten in the face of Toronto’s final possession: Dwane Casey draws up the play for the wrong side of the floor, Lowry gets trapped, busts through but bobbles the ball, and Pierce recovers in time to block his shot. And that’s your ball game... but it never gets to that point without Kyle’s clutch play down the stretch.
Would Lowry’s postseason narrative be different if he managed to hit that shot? Let us know what you remember from 2014 in the comments!