The Toronto Raptors have clinched a playoff spot. They are the first team to do so this season. There are 18 (!) games left, and more than a month of regular season.
With an overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, the Raptors are now 18.5 games up on the ninth-seeded Pistons with only 35 games left to play between the two teams. Detroit – or Charlotte, or anyone else below the playoff cutoff – couldn’t catch Toronto even by winning out as the Raptors lost out. This is by far the earliest the Raptors have ever clinched a playoff spot, with their earliest clinch prior coming on March 23 in 2015-16.
This marks the fifth consecutive year that the Raptors have made the playoffs, a new high-water mark for the franchise. It will also be the longest active playoff streak in the Eastern Conference once the Atlanta Hawks are officially eliminated (it could potentially be the fourth-longest in the NBA after San Antonio, Golden State, and Houston if the Los Angeles Clippers miss the playoffs).
The Raptors have a chance to earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time, as they’re now 2.5 games up on the Boston Celtics. Doing so would land the Raptors their fifth Atlantic Division title and give them home-court advantage through to the NBA Finals, should they make it. And, of course, the Raptors are now just 10 wins from setting a new franchise record – the best regular season in team history is 2015-16’s 56-26 mark, and not only can the Raptors top that with a finish of 10-8 or better, they only need to go 13-5 from here for the first 60-win season in team history.
So, yeah…pretty good half-decade or so, and it’s all been building toward this, the most successful Raptors regular season ever.