So, umm, wow. What a season, right?

It’s honestly, truly been a wild ride from October to now, and I don’t think many thought the 2013-14 Toronto Raptors would be about to host a playoff series for the first time since 2006-07, or even be making their first playoff appearance since 2007-08.

Think about those dates for a second – the Raptors haven’t played playoff basketball since 2008. I’ve been writing about the team since the summer of that year and don’t have one “Raptors playoff post” in my portfolio. I wrote my first post for Raptors Republic on July 21, 2009 following a 33-49 season and subsequently covered a 40-42 squad, a 22-60 laughingstock, a 23-43 outfit, a 34-48 team and then, finally, this year, a playoff team.

And not just a playoff team. A likable playoff team, one that has players you really want to root for, one that seems to enjoy playing together as much as we enjoy watching them. It’s fun and it’s exciting, and while Friday here at RR will bring with it a ton of preview content for the series ahead, today I wanted to look back and relive the journey, with “favorite moments” from other writers interspersed.

October 29
Raptors Republic season preview.
The most optimistic RR scribe, William, pegs the Raptors for a 44-38 record. The most optimistic of our writers undershot the team’s record. Yes, a lot changed from the start of the season, but it serves as a reminder just how far this squad outstripped preseason expectations.

Sam Holako: Leo Rautins joining Twitter; this is a serious one for me: many of you know how much I’ve hated his style of commenting over the years, which naturally led to a deep seeded hatred of him to the point that I’d watch games on mute (or listen to to the radio), but God bless social media; he’s a dude and seems like a decent one at that. Swirsky can still go f**…

December 3
The Raptors blow a 27-point lead, lose to the Warriors by nine and fall to 6-11.
While the record would get worse after a loss to Phoenix, bottoming out at 6-12, this was unquestionably the low-point of the season. Things had already started poorly, but this was unbelievable. 27 points? They blew a 27 POINT LEAD? Andrew was right to title his post-game The Aristocrats.

William Lou: Remembering Rudy Gay’s brief 18-game stretch with the Raptors this season: 1) he banned stat sheets in the locker room, presumably because every player understands how percentages work. 2) The infamous OT loss to the Rockets when Gay shot 11-for-37 from the field. 3) When a subset of fans thought Gay’s off-season eye-surgery would fix his shooting woes, when the issue all-along was shot-selection. Thanks for the memories, Rudy!

December 8-9
The Raptors beat the Lakers in a fun 106-94 game, one they played without Rudy Gay because the next day, Gay was traded to Sacramento.
This is the big one. While at the time it looked like step two in a tear-down meant to free the team of bad contracts and bottom out, there were signs it would make the team better. Gay was using 31 percent of the team’s offensive possessions with a 42.1 true shooting percentage, numbers bound to regress to his career norms (and they certainly did in Sacramento, so good for him) but ones that were dragging the team down. The fans had turned on him, and when I saw him after the Brooklyn game on Nov. 26, he looked like a broken man. The trade maybe wasn’t supposed to send the team surging towards the top of the East, but handing the reigns to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, adding valuable depth pieces and allowing for more development from Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas all provided marginal gains that added up to make this a wildly different team.

Date Record O_Rating (Rank) D_Rating (Rank) Net_Rating (rank)
Oct 30 – Dec 7 6-12 101 (19) 102.1 (15) -1 (19)
Dec 7 – April 15 42-21 107.5 (9) 102.5 (8) 5 (6)
Through 81 games 48-33 106 (9) 102.4 (9) 3.7 (8)

December 12-ish
The Raptors don’t trade Kyle Lowry.
The rumoured deal would have been structured around Kyle Lowry heading to the Knicks for some flotsam and, most importantly, a 2018 first-round pick. The logic for the Raptors was to continue the tear-down by jettisoning one of the team’s best players and adding an asset that could help build for the future or be used to acquire something else later. Knicks’ owner James Dolan reportedly balked at including the pick, and instead Lowry remained with the Raptors, becoming the team’s MVP. This is, without a doubt, the biggest thing that didn’t happen to the Raptors this season.

Tamberlyn Richardson: The continual growth of our young core is reflected in multiple individual and team records, the most impressive of which is every starter registering career highs in points per game. My standout moment of the season came on the first road trip following the trade when Toronto beat Dallas in overtime and followed by becoming the first team to beat Oklahoma City on their home court this season. Underlying this record season is the ascension of Kyle Lowry as a leader who best embodies the Raptors’ no-quit, bull dog identity.

December 20-22
The Raptors pull off an unlikely 19-point comeback against the Mavericks on the road, and follow it up two nights later by becoming the first team this season to win in Oklahoma City, once again needing a big comeback to do so.
The Raptors had gone 3-2 since the trade, but the schedule and sample size were such that it was tough to glean much from it. This may have been the best – and most unlikely – two-game stretch in franchise history, but at the time it was still just that, a two-game stretch. Beneath the surface, however, it planted very legitimate seeds that this team was better than they were being given credit for.

Tim Chisholm: The five-game win streak after Christmas that solidified, for me, that the post-trade productivity wasn’t a fluke. Watching the pieces fit together once Dwane Casey had a chance to work with them and implement his system showed not only how well the pieces fit together but how capable the coach was at integrating all the parts. Suddenly ’13-’14 was a real season.

January 1, 5, 7
The Raptors shock the Pacers, then a few days later almost do it to the Heat, too, following it up by nearly stunning Indiana again.
They beat the top team in the conference and then hung with the two very best teams in the conference in back-to-back games. It’s always tough to think a team built momentum in a loss, but if it was possible, it happened here. This was right around the time of ”we out here like Michael Phelps” , and the Raptors had managed to get through some choppy waters with minimal damage. Of course, as I wrote at the time, they were at a point now where moral victories would no longer suffice.

Garrett Hinchey: January 1, 2014. The Raptors are on a mini-roll since the Rudy Gay trade, having upped their record to 14-15. Their opponent, the powerhouse Indiana Pacers, come into town with a league-best record and championship aspirations. Too much, too soon, right?
Wrong. 95-82 Raptors, as the team announces their arrival into the east’s elite with force in a wire-to-wire win. New year, new team, new attitude. Laughingstocks no more, all hail the kings in the north.

February 16
DeMar DeRozan plays in the NBA All-Star Game.
Hey, Lowry should have been there too, and All-Star nods don’t mean much in the win column, but this was a pretty resounding affirmation that people outside of Toronto were recognizing what had been happening. DeRozan, after all, is just the fourth All-Star in franchise history.

Doc Naismith: My favorite part has to be this last month or two with respect to the media (outside of Toronto & Canada) giving this team more credit and positive reaffirmation that is ever has since the club’s inaugural season. Mine and most NBA analysts thoughts coming into this year was one of opportunity for growth, development and experience for such a young core. The Raptors not only reinvigorated a die-hard fanbase, but they also put a franchise back on the NBA map that hasn’t been this alive since the Vince Carter glory days.

March 21
The Raptors lose in double-overtime to the Thunder.
Remember how I said earlier the time for moral victories had ended? Well, this is a great example of that. Earlier in the year or in prior seasons, hanging with the Thunder through two overtimes would have been a major victory, even in a loss. This had some positive signs, of course, and was the best game I’ve ever attended, but the fact that fans actually expected this one to end in victory as it was happening was an enormous divergence from the norm for this franchise.

PhD Steve: a season in review…in haiku

it has been a joy
to see those who wish to tank
have to eat their words

Tim W: My favourite part of the season was when the Raptors snagged the number one pick in the draft. Oh, wait…

March 23
The Raptors beat the Hawks.
That’s it, a win against a mediocre team? Not exactly. Once again, it was a fourth quarter comeback, their ninth of the season. Better yet, it led to the greatest GIF of all time.

Zarar Sidiqi: Winning that game in Brooklyn on the Patterson steal and jumper. It exemplified the team’s turnaround in one play: you had Dwane Casey reading Jason Kidd’s mind for the inbound defense, Patterson making the defensive play, giving it up to the floor general in Lowry, who in years past might have taken the selfish jumper. No this time, he read the defense and made the right dish for a huge win on the road.

April 14
The Raptors win their 48th game of the season.
The most wins in a single season in franchise history. Considering the franchise has only once won a playoff series, it would be hard to argue that this isn’t the most successful season in team history if they can win a round this year. 19 seasons, and this is the one with the most wins. And maybe the most fun, too.

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Toronto Raptors Kings of the North T-Shirt