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The Raptors’ Journey to the Championship Began With Failure

Category: Other Sports,Sports

To further show their commitment to winning, the Raptors swung for the fences again in February, trading once key pieces of Toronto’s core like guard Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas for the former Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol.

It was another risk: Wright and Valanciunas were young, productive talents entering their primes. They were cheaper than the 34-year-old Gasol, who was having an underwhelming season with the Memphis Grizzlies.

But Ujiri was putting his chips on the table to support Leonard in a bid to win right now. Read another way, Ujiri showed Leonard that Toronto was committed to him. (The signing of Jeremy Lin, also in February, who was having an excellent season with the Atlanta Hawks, didn’t quite work out.)

But that didn’t mean the Raptors didn’t have old demons to defeat. They lost their first playoff game against a plucky Magic team. Lowry didn’t score a single point, rekindling an overblown narrative that he wasn’t a playoff performer. But this time, the Raptors had Leonard. Lowry bounced back, and Toronto didn’t lose another game in the series. Leonard led the team in scoring four of the five games.

In the second round, Toronto faced Philadelphia in what will go down as one of the strangest, most talked about playoff series in basketball history.

Four of the seven games were decided by double-digits. In two of the contests, neither team cracked 100 points, a throwback to an older, now-seemingly defunct style of basketball. But after six games of exchanging body blows, the series went to the Scotiabank Arena for Game 7. In the final seconds, Leonard rose up from the right baseline and rimmed in what immediately became the most important jumper in Canada history. The shot caused Philadelphia’s star center, Joel Embiid, to weep, as the Sixers were sent home in devastating fashion, 92-90. Even the typically reserved Leonard let out a scream.

The Raptors lost the first two games of their next series on the road against the Bucks, who had the higher seed. Game 2 was a blowout. It seemed as though Toronto had no answer for the likely Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the 2019 Raptors did have one: Leonard.

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