It hasn't been since 2007-2008 that the Toronto Raptors have reached the playoffs. A franchise that is in his 19th year of existence has only been to the postseason five times. It has been years and years of disappointment and a lack of respect around the league. It was becoming a trend for the Raptors and looked as if it would continue this year. After starting with a 6-12 record, it appeared as if the Raptors would be in for another disappointing season, but that all changed on December 9, 2013.
On that day, the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in a seven-player deal. Many thought the trade meant the Raptors would find themselves in the lottery, but the exact opposite happened. The Raptors started to play better – a lot better. They bought into playing on the defensive end and learned how to share the ball on offense. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are having career years, while the trade acquisitions of Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons have paid dividends for this team.
Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey has done a nice job with this team and went from a coach being on the hot seat to one of the candidates for Coach Of The Year. Although he won't win the award, he is getting recognition around the league for what he has been able to do. However, has he done enough to keep his job? Casey is in the final year of his contract with the Raptors and perhaps making the playoffs could warrant a new contract with the team.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Raptors can clinch a playoff berth tonight with a win over the Boston Celtics. The Raptors just beat the Celtics on Wednesday and lead the season series 2-1. The Raptors can also clinch a playoff berth with a New York Knicks loss against the Phoenix Suns, but you can bet the Raptors want to get into the playoffs by taking care of business themselves instead of relying on another team to lose.
The Raptors are currently sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 40-31 record. They have the same record as the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker. The Raptors lead the Brooklyn Nets by two and a half games to sit on top of the Atlantic Division. With 11 games still to be played, the Raptors need to finish strong in order to ensure they get the highest seed possible.
The Raptors play host to the Celtics tonight at 7 pm. ET. Be sure to watch the game and see if they can punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
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