Raptors rewriting team history one playoff victory at a time

Raptors rewriting team history one playoff victory at a time

This 2019 Toronto Raptors playoff run is providing fans memories for a lifetime.

This is not your Toronto Raptors team of the past.

No, this team keeps finding ways to win. On back-to-back Sundays, the Raps have provided two of the most memorable (and heart-stopping) wins in franchise history.

The atmosphere inside the Scotiabank Arena and outside in Jurassic Park during this playoff run has been bombastic and boisterous and buoyed by belief with each Raptors win — the team has given them so much to believe in.

Nobody will ever forget Kawhi Leonard’s shot, that four-bouncer that dropped at the buzzer in game seven against Philadelphia to send the Raptors to the conference finals.

WATCH | Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beater:

Kawhi Leonard poured in 41 points, including a dramatic game-winner as the Toronto Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 92-90 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 1:23

And now this latest act, Sunday night’s 118-112 thrilling double overtime Game 3 win has the Raptors right back in the Eastern Conference series against Milwaukee. They now trail 2-1 with game four set for Tuesday night in Toronto.

They did it with Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell on the bench down the stretch after fouling out.

They did it with Leonard visibly in pain throughout the entire game.

And when the team needed him most, Leonard stepped up. Again.

He played a career-high 52 minutes and carried the team on his back in both overtimes. With three minutes remaining in double overtime, Leonard swooped to the basket and slammed it down sending the Scotiabank Arena crowd into a frenzy.

And then with just one-minute left and the Raptors ahead by two, Kawhi stole the ball from the Bucks which led to another Raps score. He finished the game with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

WATCH | Leonard leads Raptors past Bucks in double OT:

Kawhi Leonard finished with a game-high 36 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. 3:03

“I’m confident in myself. My teammates are confident in me,” Leonard said after the game. “I’m giving 110 per cent out there.”

As for how his body is feeling after limping at different times during the game?

“I’m feeling alright,” he said. “This is playoff basketball. Everyone is hurting.”

He’s been here before. He knows the battle scars of winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Now he’s doing everything he can to take this Toronto team there.

Changing the narrative

Playoff basketball has been a painful experience for Raptors fans. They’ve been close and there’s been some playoff success. But that glass ceiling, getting to a championship series, has yet to be broken by a team who risked so much to get to this point. They traded the beloved DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard.

The only other time this franchise was in the Eastern Conference Finals, they fell behind the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers 2-0 on the road, then returned home and won both games.

There was hope, optimism and excitement. But the Raps would go on to get dominated by LeBron in the next two games, losing the series, sending them into another offseason wondering what might have been.

So here we go again. The Raps fell behind Milwaukee 2-0 on the road, returned home and got a gutsy game three win. Now they’ll try and even the series at 2-2 Tuesday night.

With each one of these grind-it-out victories the DNA of this franchise is changing. Just like it changed when Kawhi made that shot — 18 years after Vince Carter missed it.

There’s no more LeBron James. There are no more excuses. They have their own superstar in Kawhi.

There’s an urgency to win now and the Toronto Raptors players and their fans know it.

CBC | Sports News

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