The 2015-16 NBA season was undoubtedly the best in Toronto Raptors history. From winning 50 games to earning an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, this Raptors team defied expectations. Let’s take a look back at some of the best moments from this historic season:
After being swept at the hands of the Washington Wizards last season, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri made some adjustments to the roster in order to strengthen the team’s defence. On the very first day of free-agency, Ujiri signed small forward DeMarre Carroll to a 4 year/$60 million contract. Carroll was noted for his defensive prowess, as well as his stellar playoff performance with the Atlanta Hawks.
— DeMarre Carroll (@DeMarreCarroll1) July 1, 2015
For the rest of the off-season, the Raptors would make other key signings including: Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola, and Cory Joseph. While these signings came at the cost of losing fan-favourites like Amir Johnson and Lou Williams, every player signed proved to be integral to this historic Raptors season.
Cory Joseph’s Buzzer Beater
The Raptors first meeting against the Washington Wizards since last year’s ended off with some sweet sweet atonement. Following a pair of missed free-throws from John Wall, the Raptors called timeout with three seconds to play, down one point. Here’s the final play from that game:
DeRozan puts Rudy Gobert on a poster
DeMar DeRozan‘s entry for dunk of the year. Nasty:
DeMar DeRozan vs Rudy Gobert. Hint: David gets best of Goliath. https://t.co/74R9lVcGh0
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) November 19, 2015
Historic Win Streak
In the month of January, the Raptors went on the longest win streak in franchise history with 11 consecutive victories. It was a magical month for fans as the Raptors inched closer to winning 50 games.
The 2016 All-Star Weekend was held in Toronto, marking it the first time the event was held outside of the United States. This year Kyle Lowry was deemed an All-Star by the fans, while DeRozan was picked by the coaches. Despite the blistering cold weather, this All-Star weekend was one that will be remembered for a long time.
While the West won a fairly entertaining all star game, the real fun was on Saturday night. Klay Thompson won the three-point contest and Karl Anthony-Towns won the skills competition. Then there was dunk contest. Minnesota’s Zach LaVine and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon put on what is considered one of the greatest dunk contests in recent history, with LaVine winning in extra rounds (by a slim margin). Here are the highlights:
Lowry’s Game Winner vs. Cavs
On Feb. 26, 2016, Kyle Lowry scored a career-high 43 points against Cleveland…including the game winner:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 27, 2016
First 50-win season
On March 30, 2016, the Raptors defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 105-97, giving them their first 50-win season in franchise history (they would go on to finish the year with 56 wins). The previous record was set last season at 49.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 31, 2016
Biyombo sets (and breaks) franchise rebounding record
In March against the Pacers, Bismack Biyombo set the franchise record for most rebounds in a game with 25. In May, during Game 3 against the Cavaliers, Biyombo broke his own record in that category with 26 rebounds.
Bismack Biyombo’s 26 rebounds eclipse his own Raptors franchise record for most in a game, regular season or playoffs
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 22, 2016
Game 5 Comeback vs. Indiana
With the series tied 2-2, the Raptors entered the fourth quarter trailing Indiana, 90-77. It seemed as if the series would shift back to Indiana, giving the Pacers a chance to close out the series. Then the Raptors began the fourth quarter on a 21-2 run.
Down two with around six minutes to play, Raptors rookie Norman Powell forced a turnover and threw down an emphatic dunk to tie the game at 92.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 27, 2016
The Raptors would go on to win the game, 102-99, thanks to Solomon Hill being a tenth of a second late on a game-tying three. Toronto outscored the Pacers in the fourth quarter, 25-9.
First playoff series win since 2001
Prior to this season, the Raptors underwent two consecutive first-round exits at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets (no I won’t show Pierce’s block again) and the Washington Wizards, respectively.
Coming into this year, the Raptors dealt with the moniker of being a “first-round team.” When the playoffs arrived, the second seeded Raptors were seeded against the seventh seed Indiana Pacers led by a healthy Paul George. Many expected this series to be a cake walk for Toronto, however, the series ultimately went the distance.
Toronto maintained control for most of Game 7 until the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Here Indiana went on a 17-4 run, bringing themselves to within three points. With the stagnant offence, sloppy turnovers and Paul George- the Raptors almost choked another game.
With Ian Mahinmi unable to finish the lob from George (due to a missed call on DeRozan), the Raptors regained possession with 15 seconds to play. The Pacers waited until the 6.5 second mark to foul DeRozan- sending him to the charity stripe. DeMar would sink both free throws putting the game, and series, on ice.
The win against Indiana marked Toronto’s first playoff series win since 2001 as well as their first seven-game series victory in franchise history.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 2, 2016
Lowry’s Half-Court Buzzer Beater
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Raptors were down three with 3.3 seconds to go. Kyle Lowry, who was having an atrocious shooting night, gets the ball on the inbound, [almost] steps out of bounds and throws up a prayer to force overtime:
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 4, 2016
Despite losing the game, this shot will go down as one of the most memorable in Raptors history.
Game 7 vs. Miami
The Raptors played a Dwayne Wade-led Miami Heat team in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The last time the Raptors went this far into the playoffs was back in 2001. The series would go the distance, marking another seventh game for both teams. The Raptors would go on to win the game in an impressive fashion, beating the Heat 116-89. Kyle Lowry would have one heck of a game: 36 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
— NBA (@NBA) May 15, 2016
This win earned Toronto’s its first Eastern Conference Finals appearance and solidified this season as the best in franchise history.
Slowing down the Cavs
Toronto would play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Coming into this series, the Cavs were undefeated and were expected to sweep the Raptors. Game 1 and 2 were blowout wins for Cleveland and the series was all but over.
But then the series shifted to Toronto.
The Raptors would go on to win Games 3 and 4, stifling analysts and their expectations. While Cleveland would go on and win the series in six games, the Raptors refused to quit. This Raptors team gave Cleveland their biggest challenge of the post-season (so far) and was met with a standing ovation from the fans at the Air Canada Centre.
Heck, LeBron even gave Toronto props:
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 28, 2016