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Choose your isolation room: Toronto Raptors edition

Imagine being in isolation with nothing to watch but a mixed bag of Raptors events. Get your emotions in check and select your room wisely!

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a sucker for memes!

You want me to create the greatest team of all-time with only $15? Count me in!

I can only pick three from your list of nine subjectively similar list of cereals/movies/TV shows?? Yes please!

Quote my favourite movie and tag 48 of my closest friends? Abso-freaking-lutely!

The most recent version invading the Twitterverse is the “choose your quarantine house” phenomena. You can choose between Saskatchewan alumni, characters from CBS shows, a smorgasbord of musicians, and, of course, Toronto Raptors favourites.

While all of these are thought-provoking conversation starters, none of them tackle another possible reality in this pandemic climate — staying in isolation. This is not something I or anyone should wish on anybody else. But, as we sit idly in our homes, we are only left with odd thoughts and imagination. This little mind of mine has been pondering one very odd thought:

What if you had to self-isolate in one room for two weeks, but the television in the room only plays four Raptors events on an endless loop? Which of the following rooms would you choose?

Room #1

04/13/19 vs. Orlando Magic — Game 1 (Augustin dagger)

04/01/01 vs. ORL (McGrady’s return)

02/12/00 All-Star Dunk Contest (Let’s Go Home)

05/15/16 vs. Miami Heat — Game 7 (ECF-bound)

It won’t take long to notice the formula here. In each room is a Gut Punch game, a Return game, a Regular Season all-timer, and a Playoff all-timer. For the first room, it’s fitting we start with the opener to the championship playoffs. After a season filled with load management, the anticipation of a Kawhi-led Raptors playoff run was at a fever pitch. A scrappy Magic bunch kept the game closer than many thought possible. When the two most important acquisitions of the season — Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol — botched a simple screen, it left D.J. Augustin wide open for a game-winning three. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

In 2000, Tracy McGrady left Toronto via free agency because he was unhappy with the direction of the franchise. What could have been a dream duo with Vince Carter was no longer and Raptors fans were quite displeased. When T-Mac returned, on April Fool’s Day no less, he overcame the vitriol of the Air Canada Centre crowd and walked away a winner.

Speaking of winners, the Raptors, and especially VC, were huge winners in Oakland (heard that before?) on February 12, 2000. Up until a year ago, it was, and may still be, the most re-watched Raptors event in franchise history. Once VC threw down his reverse 360 windmill, the contest may not have already been over, but Toronto’s place on the NBA map was finally marked.

The final game in this room was an absolute joy to watch from beginning to end. The Miami Heat led for 39 seconds total, and, despite the experience of Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson, never threatened the Raptors. Toronto’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals was a watershed moment for the franchise!

Room #2

05/01/18 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — Game 1 (JV tip miss)

04/15/05 vs. New Jersey Nets (Carter’s return)

03/24/96 vs. Chicago Bulls (The Upset)

05/23/19 vs. Milwaukee Bucks — Game 5 (FVV Sr.)

Fresh off the team’s best regular season in franchise history, and riding high after exorcising some playoff demons by eliminating the Wizards, it was fair to think the Raptors might actually have a chance of defeating LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Fred VanVleet missed open looks at three-pointers in the dying seconds of the 4th quarter and overtime, while Jonas Valanciunas’ pain-stakingly close tip misses were all she wrote. Cleveland would go on to sweep the Raps, making it three consecutive playoff exits at the hands of LEBRONTO.

Vince Carter’s first game in Toronto as an opponent was memorable for all the wrong reasons. “V-C SUCKS” chants were shouted from every direction. Offensive signs and altered Carter jerseys were rampant inside the arena and throughout Canada. The vitriol is gone, but re-watching this would be a harsh reminder that the Raptors had to watch public enemy #1 walk out of Toronto a winner... again!

How crazy is it that a mid-March victory in the team’s inaugural season could still land on everyone’s greatest wins in franchise history list, 25 years later? The Raptors’ win over Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls — at the peak of their powers and on their way to a then-record 72 regular season victories — stands as one of the greatest upsets in NBA history! In the teams’ first three meetings (ever), the Raptors’ deficit heading into the 4th quarter: 2, 3, 3. The signs of an upset were present but the fact that Toronto pulled it off while only playing seven (!) adds to the lore of this victory.

Including a non-series-clinching game among the best playoff games in franchise history would seem odd, but it’s hard to argue the significance of Game 5 in Milwaukee last year. The game where Fred VanVleet Sr. was born. The game where the Raptors grabbed the Eastern Conference Finals by the antlers. The game where any lingering doubts about Toronto’s destiny was put to rest!

Room #3

04/26/15 vs. Washington Wizards — Game 4 (Swept by Pierce)

02/16/11 vs. Miami Heat (Bosh’s return)

11/03/95 vs. New Jersey Nets (The first first tipoff)

06/13/19 vs. Golden State Warriors — Game 6 (We The Champs)

There was nothing fun about the 2015 Playoffs for Raptors fans. A year after falling one Paul Pierce blocked shot short of advancing, Toronto found themselves facing their pudgy nemesis again — this time playing with the Wizards. Despite sweeping the season series and having home court advantage, the Raptors were outmatched in every game. After winning Game 2, the Round Mound of the Playground predicted the Wizards wouldn’t need their passports again. Damn him for being right!

Of the four returns, Chris Bosh’s was the “quietest” of the bunch. Similar to VC and T-Mac before him, CB4 left for greener pastures down south. His return to Toronto was also the city’s first glimpse at Miami’s super team. You could almost excuse the fans’ lack of energy in booing for Bosh, as they were also jeering LeBron James! Just like the previous returns, this one also ended with a former Raptor leaving Toronto with a win.

From the time Toronto was awarded an NBA franchise on November 4, 1993, to the Raptors’ inaugural game on November 3, 1995, the excitement for a Canadian team (two actually) in the NBA almost felt like a dream. When the ball was tipped and Alvin Robertson scored the first points, the dream became reality. The Canadian sports scene has never been the same!

Fast forward 24.5 years and a wilder dream came true. Maybe it was Kyle Lowry, cementing his status as the greatest Raptor of all-time, starting the game on a personal 11-2 run. Maybe it was Fred VanVleet (Sr.) scoring more points in the fourth quarter (12) than the entire Warriors starting lineup (11). Maybe it was Pascal Siakam, dropping 26 points and scoring the championship-sealing bucket, all while being guarded by former Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green. Whatever your reason, the outcome was the same, ”there’s a new NBA Champion, and it’s a team from Toronto, Canada. We the north are now WE THE CHAMPIONS!”

Room #4

05/25/16 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — Game 5 (38-point blowout)

02/22/19 vs. San Antonio Spurs (DeMar’s return)

12/22/19 vs. Dallas Mavericks (The Comeback)

05/12/19 vs. Philadelphia 76ers — Game 7 (The Shot)

The final room in our hypothetical quarantine house takes you to both extremes of Raptor fandom. A 48-minute long gut punch game on one end... and The Shot on the other!

The Raptors were in unfamiliar territory in 2016. The team’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals was met with a rude awakening from that LeBron guy and his band of merry men. Cleveland ran away with the first two games and a sweep felt imminent. The Raptors showed their heart and, thanks to the revelation that was Bismack Biyombo, managed to send the series back to Cleveland tied at two apiece. I remember thinking that the Raptors were actually closer to a Finals appearance than the Warriors (who were down 3-1 to the Thunder at the time). The Cavs scored on 10 straight possessions between the first and second quarters, and led 100-60 (not a typo) after three quarters. Yeah, maybe the Raptors weren’t quite ready yet!

That “Greatest Raptor of All-Time” statement I made further up about Lowry was a shaky statement to make before the Summer of 2018 AD (After DeRozan). Compton’s finest was unlike the Raptor superstars you’ve read about over the previous paragraphs — DeRozan never wanted to leave Toronto. No one in their right mind should complain about trading away the face of the franchise because it brought in the chosen one who would lead Toronto to the promised land. However, DeRozan’s love for the city and Toronto’s reciprocal feeling was felt throughout this special game. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the only return game listed here that ended in a Raptors victory!

The phrase “Lowry plus bench” has always felt like an insider’s secret that the general NBA audience was unaware of. On dreary December evening, Lowry plus bench turned a 30-point deficit late in the third quarter into the largest comeback victory in franchise history! The first 33.5 minutes are not that enjoyable to watch, but the final 14.5 minutes was a stretch that you tell your grandchildren about!

Actually, save your brain cells and just re-tell the story of The Shot!