987 games ago, Vince Carter hit a three. It was February 26, 1999. The opponent was Minnesota. It was at 7:43 of the first quarter. At the time, I was only 12 and not really watching basketball, but I can safely assume everyone thought it was a run-of-the-mill three point field goal.
Game after game, the Raptors hit at least one three point shot. After a while, fans started to take notice of the teams prolific consistency, and buzz began to build in the mid-2000s that the streak was reaching large proportions. The Raptors had made a three point shot in FIVE HUNDRED straight games. SIX HUNDRED. SEVEN HUNDRED. And so on…
On February 24, 2009, at the 7:56 mark of the first quarter in a game against Minnesota, Jose Calderon hit a three point shot. It was almost exactly 10 years to the date (two days off) and game time (13 seconds off) from when Vince hit the streak-starting three. Jose hit from beyond the arc, and the streak had hit 837. A new NBA franchise record.
837 consecutive games with a three-point shot made for the Toronto Raptors franchise. The streak had been in trouble several times, most notably in 2006 with Darrick Martin’s garbage-time heave saving the streak against Dallas. But it kept going and going.
As the streak neared 1000 games, the enormity of it had set in for most Raptor fans and NBA observers. The odds of a team, no matter how prolific a shooting team, hitting a three point shot for this many games in a row are astronomical. 1000 wasn’t to be, but don’t let the lack of a rosy round number lessen this for you.
The Toronto Raptors hit a three-point shot for 986 consecutive games.
Just shy of 12 calendar years. 12 NBA seasons. Hundreds of players. Every opponent imaginable. Any game situation, any roster combination, any way at all.
Morris Peterson lead the way with 801 career three point field goals made, and he is followed by Vince Carter (554) and Andrea Bargnani (468). Along the way, nearly every Raptor you can remember hit a three at some point. Even DeMar DeRozan, believe it or not (six of them).
Sadly, with no three-point shooter in the lineup tonight except for Bargnani, that streak has come to an end. January 24, 2011, at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Raptors went 0-for-13 from downtown, ending the most random streak in basketball at 986 games.
DeRozan went 0/2, Jerryd Bayless 0/3, and Bargnani and Sundaita Gaines 0/4 each. They are the shooters that will live on in Raptor lore and infamy as the shooters who couldn’t continue the streak, along with the attemptless Sonny Weems, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Julian Wright.
I didn’t really notice the possibility until the end of the third quarter when an 0/9 stared me in the face. Within four minutes of the fourth quarter, that number was 0/12, and it felt like the Raptors might begin forcing threes to keep the streak alive. To their credit, they only took one more down the stretch (plus a blocked Gaines attempt after the clock had expired). The game situation didn’t call for three point attempts, as it was a two point game for the majority of the fourth quarter. With Memphis and Toronto trading lay-ups and free throws, and the Raptors lacking a hot shooter – all their damage was being done at the rim – the opportunity simply didn’t present itself. An attempt would have come out of the flow of the offense, and again, you have to creidt the team for putting the outcome of the game ahead of such an enormous streak, especially a young team playing toward no tangible goal.
Sadly, it was for nought, as Rudy gay hit a ridiculous fading jumper over Julian Wright with 0.8 seconds left to break a tie and give Memphis a 100-98 victory. The three-point streak dies, and the losing streak continues, reaching eight games.
Once again playing shorthanded, the Raptors played their tails off and offered the best effort that could be expected with seven healthy NBA players (I am counting Weems as only half-healthy, and Gaines as only half an NBA player). DeRozan and Bargnani carried the scoring load, while Bayless played one of his better all-around games as a Raptor in his eighth start. DeRozan scored 25-points and responded to my constructive criticism from Saturday by adding nine rebounds. Bargnani finally had a fair-percentage shooting game, going 13/27 on his way to 29 points. Bayless had a 15-8-11 line and did a great job starting the fast break and getting to the rim. Julian Wright had one of his best overall games, playing 41 minutes, holding Rudy Gay to 8/20 shooting, and adding 11 points and nine rebounds. Ed Davis blocked a career-high five shots, including a filthy momentum-saver with four minutes to go. But all of the indvidiually strong performances didn’t add up to a win, and more importantly, nobody had a crooked number in the “3FG” column.
The Raps were beat on the boards by a small margin (46-42), but the difference in second chance points was 27-14. The turnovers were close (11-9 Raptors), and the shooting percentages close (48% Tor, 44% Mem). Memphis’ four three-pointers were balanced by the Raptors additional free throws. Really, the difference came down to those couple of extra possessions, allowing Memphis to hit one additional field goal on nine additional attempts.
That difference-making field goal, said jumper by Rudy Gay, should be a memorable one. It should be one of those season- and losing-streak-defining shots that we’ve become accustomed to. But it won’t be. This game will forever be known as the streak-ending game, and the final result didn’t matter nearly as much to the iconography of the franchise as much as this random and seemingly meaningless streak.
And while a streak like that, one which doesn’t hold much weight in terms of franchise quality or value, shouldn’t mean so much – especially once it is 100 games past the previous record – it did. No matter how good or bad the team was, no matter if the team lacked a point guard or a big man, defense or rebounding, a franchise player or new management, we could always be relied upon to hit a three.
And now we’re just another bad team in the middle of a rebuild.