From Carter's shot to Kawhi's: the redemption of the Raptors

Eighteen years after Vince Carter failed the winning shot against the Sixers, Kawhi chased away the ghosts of the Canadian franchise and gave the pass to the Raptors.

"The Sixers hold on and advance to the East Conference Finals!" Exclaimed Mike Breen, legendary commentator of ESPN. The phrase was announced after Vince Carter failed the winning shot that gave the Sixers the pass to the Eastern finals and eliminated the Raptors. It was an epic game, in which the Philadelphia franchise kept ahead for most of the game, but saw Toronto row to arrive alive at the end of the game and have the opportunity to send Allen Iverson and Larry Brown's team to home. Carter had it in his hands. And Carter missed. Eighteen years later, the Raptors chase away ghosts and get revenge and redemption.

It was another time and another NBA. In fact, in those two teams the only player who remains active is Vince Carter himself, who next year will play his 22nd season in the best league in the world, a historical record. That season (in which he shared equipment with Dell Curry, eye) was the best of his long career. 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for the forward, who was All Star and chosen in the Second Best Quintet of the League. He led the Raptors to a record 47-35 in the regular season and had it in his hand to qualify the franchise to its first conference final. The ruling condemned him and he pursued the rest of his career. The Sixers made it to the NBA Finals after getting rid of the Bucks (with Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and George Karl on the bench) in the conference final. There they would lose against the Lakers of Shaq and Kobe, dominators of the time.

In the eighteen years between that shot and Leonard's, many things have happened. The Raptors would play their only one conference final in 2016, with Dwayne Casey on the bench. A this round would come Vince Carter only once in his career, in 2010, when he played in the Magic. Iverson, on the other hand, was not so close to the ring again. Eighteen years in which the NBA has changed and in which the Raptors have tried a thousand and one different ways to get far in the playoffs. So far.

Carter would continue in the Raptors until the 2004/05 season, when after 20 games played he went between much controversy to the Nets of Jason Kidd. Canadian fans took a long time to forgive him, although years later they would again applaud him in his away games at the old Air Canada Center. After the departure of what was his star, in Toronto began a reconstruction that saw Kobe Bryant put them 81 points in 2006, while building a team around Chris Bosh, today also retired.

In 2007 they reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, in a season when they had Sam Mitchell as Best Coach of the Year and Bryan Colangelo as Best Executive. They fell in the first round against the Nets ... by Vince Carter. The following year they would repeat the result (falling to the Magic) and then they entered an odyssey that hurt people like José Manuel Calderón, who was about to be All Star in 2009 if the team had a better record, and that ended with the arrival of Dwayne Casey to the bench in 2011/12.

With the new coach, a reconstruction was started that, although it took a long time to carburize, began laying the foundations for the current Raptors. 23-43 in the year of the lockout, 34-48 the following year, and return to the playoffs in 2013/14, when they fell by a tight 4-3 against the Nets (already without Carter). This season was the arrival of Masai Ujiri to the team, which came from a good reputation after passing through the Nuggets. His appointment as President of Operations would definitely change the course of the franchise.

The year after his arrival, Toronto would repeat the first round against the Washington Wizards (with Lou Williams as Best Sixth Man), before (finally) get the coveted award and set a season that would be historic for the franchise. The 2015/16 marked a before and after in the recent history of the Raptors and it was there where they began to see, definitely, light at the end of the tunnel.

Before the final phase played in 2016 they achieved a record of 56 -26, already with Lowry and DeRozan as the basis of the project. In the playoffs, eliminated the Pacers in the first round (4-3), and the Heat in the second round (4-3), in which they played a seventh game that remained for the annals and that was the first final of the Conference of the history of the franchise. For the first time, they played the penultimate tie for the title. And finally, it was possible to collect what was sown. Against the Cavaliers competed with an extraordinary Biyombo and took the series to 2-2. Then they fell, but the way was right.

O that's itI thought. LeBron became the team's black beast and his Cavs eliminated the Raptors in the following two years. Especially painful was the sweep last year, which left Casey in the eye of the hurricane. Ujiri did not flinch when making changes. He dismissed Casey in spite of the record of 59-23 (the best in history for them) and of achieving the award for Best Coach of the Year, and transferred to DeRozan, a man very linked to the franchise, the city and the fans. , by a Kawhi Leonard who arrived from a year standing in the Spurs and who threatened even not to play.

The rest of the story we already know. 58-24, seconds from the East, and semifinals of Conference before the Sixers, eighteen years later. Again seventh game. And again everything would be decided on the last play. Kawhi picked up the ball and pulled over Embiid. The seconds that the ball took to decide its destiny were the longest in the history of the franchise. Eighteen years later, the ball entered. Kawhi got the claim. And the Raptors, the redemption.

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