Raptors Cage

Top 10 moments of the 2014-2015 season thus far

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With the first half of the 2014-2015 NBA season come and gone, the Toronto Raptors sit at a record of 36-17, their best pre-All Star mark by an absolute long shot. There still exists a number of things the team needs to work on, not the least of which being consistent defensive effort and shot selection. While we look to the things that need to improve we must not overlook the fact that so far this team is without a doubt the best complete team in franchise history. For a fan base that not that long ago had to suffer with a team whose centrepiece was Andrea Bargnani, this is a team and season worth celebrating. Raptors Cage has compiled the 10 best moments so far in the 2014-2015 season.

10.  Raptors sweep season series with the Washington Wizards with a DeRozan game winner.

The Raptors last game before the break was monumental enough to break into the top 10. The Raptors with this game, asserted their superiority over their East rival in the Wizards. And they did it in a way only the Raptors know how to do… in heart stopping fashion. After going down by nine in the 3rd, the team battled back in the fourth on the backs of Lou Williams and DeMar Derozan. In the dying seconds, Derozan would show some clutch genes hitting the tough off balance game winner. To make it even better, Derozan stuck the jumper in the face of Toronto’s newest public enemy number one, Paul Pierce.

Revenge was sweet.

9. “DeMar Derozan demolishes de rim!”

Things weren’t looking good for the Raptors in this early season tilt against the Boston Celtics. They trailed for much of the game against an inferior Celtics squad. Backed by 35 points from Kyle Lowry, the team stormed back late. With the game tied, Lowry made the clutch defensive play, stripping the ball from rookie Marcus Smart and after leading the break dished it to the trailing Derozan who proceeded to bring the house down with the massive game winning jam over Kelly Olynk. The moment was made even better by Matt Devlin’s call and the battle cries let out by Patrick Patterson and Lowry. Even a TD Garden security guard couldn’t hold back his excitement….


8. Lowry goes off in Utah

After Demar Derozan went down with a serious groin injury that would sideline him for over a month, many wondered how the team would adjust. In their second game without the 2014 All Star, the team’s offence ran through the hands of Kyle Lowry. This game seemed almost like a message to Raptors fans saying “don’t worry guys, I got it.” Lowry played like a man possessed and single handedly shredded the lowly Utah Jazz. He would amass a career high in points with 39 on 12-23 shooting.

7. DeReturn: DeMar Derozan comes back vs the 76ers

While the team performed very admirably in Derozan’s absence, it became abundantly clear as the season wore on how much the USC product was missed on the court. While his return did bring a number of very inconsistent performances, it appears now that the team is starting to round back into it’s early season success with Derozan as it’s centrepiece.

6. James Johnson and the Raptors take down the champs.

The Raptors were beginning to falter. They lost two in a row at home to the decimated Milwaukee Bucks and then next to the vastly inferior Brooklyn Nets in embarrassing fashion. It looked to be much of the same in the first quarter against the Clippers… that is until James Johnson stepped on the floor. His endless energy and defensive presence sparked not only a comeback, but an absolute blowout.

With this, came the decision of Dwane Casey to put James Johnson in the starting lineup alongside DeMar Derozan to combat the full strength champion San Antonio Spurs. This would prove to be a very fruitful decision. Johnson would explode for a season high 20 points on a blistering 80% shooting including adding a very uncharacteristic  go ahead 3 ball as well as the game sealing rebound. Johnson, who has endeared himself as a fan favourite in Toronto has face the uphill battle of fighting for minutes with Terrence Ross. All indications say he won’t have to fight much anymore.

5. The North invades the Palace.

On December 19th, the Toronto Raptors travelled over the border to take on the Detroit Pistons. They did not travel alone. Swaths of Raptors faithful made the bus trip to the Palace at Auburn Hills to take in the game, as well as to create some havoc. Chants of ‘Let’s Go Raptors” firmly drowned out any support for the then lowly home team.

To add to this great moment, many of the fans making the trip were led into the battle by a very special guest…

That Liverpool chant needs to become a thing. What other GM in any sport would do something like this?

4. “That was nasty right? I cocked that joint back and banged on em'”

In what is undoubtedly the play of the season so far, James Johnson added a whole lot more insult to what was already a vast amount of injury the Raptors and their fans laid on the Pistons that night. Johnson cut right past the scrambling Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and encountered the defensive stalwart Andre Drummond rotating to him. Instead of cowering, or dishing it off, Johnson would pull back with as much force as humanly possible and despite an absolute clothesline by Drummond (where was the foul?!) brought it down with reckless abandon.

The next play showed the brotherhood and solidarity that is somewhat of a running theme in this list. With Johnson about to make another drive to the hoop, Drummond wanted to ensure this play wouldn’t be as memorable, laying a hip check that could land him on the blueline of the nearby Red Wings. While peacemaker Greivis Vasquez held back the mixed martial arts expert Johnson before he went full super-saiyan, Chuck Hayes came to the rescue. While Hayes gave was giving Drummond Hulk Hogan’s patented “watchya gonna do!” finger point, one has to wonder if they hadn’t been separeted if Hayes would have torn jersey in half and given him the Atomic Leg Drop. I guess we’ll never know.

When asked about the jam, Johnson had a very modest answer(1:07)

3. The Raptors honour Vince Carter

The main headline going into this November matchup between the Raptors and the Memphis Grizzlies wasn’t the NBA’s two top teams squaring off nor was it the mystery illness that took out half of the Grizzlies lineup. It was the fact that as apart of their 20th anniversary celebrations the Toronto Raptors were going to honour their greatest and until then most hated player Vince Carter.

This moment represented far more then just the team giving a great player his due. It represented as Rod Black put it, closure. It represented a fan base that finally made peace with its team’s checkered past, ready to embrace their future.

2. “BRUNO….BRUNO…..”

Since Bruno Caboclo was surprisingly drafted 20th overall in June’s NBA draft, Raptors fans have wondered exactly what they had in the relatively unknown raw rookie labeled the “Brazillian Kevin Durant.” Three weeks into the season, during an absolute annihilation of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks fans would finally get a glimpse the lanky kid from Sao Paolo.

Caboclo became an instant sensation with fans who replaced the regular “defence” chant with a two syllable chant of “BRU-NO”, waiting in great anticipation of his first basket. And it came in style. Off a Nate Wolters miss, the ball was pushed ahead to Lou Williams who would lob it from nearly mid court to the leaking Caboclo who would finish with a two-hander. The reaction to this simple slam would probably rival a game winning shot in game 7 in any other arena. The ovations grew as Caboclo hit two more threes and added in a block.

The question of whether Caboclo, with his great physical gifts ever lives up to his potential is years from being answered. The reception however, gave the shy 19 year kid only months into his career should be a moment he will not soon forget.

1. Kyle Lowry is voted in as an All-Star starter

It’s always funny to think how close this moment, and how many of the other moments on this list were so close to not happening. It was last December when Kyle Lowry was a James Dolan moment of sanity away from playing in the blue and orange. It was only last July when Lowry was being courted heavily by the Miami Heat and the team that traded him to Toronto, the Houston Rockets. In the end, Lowry chose to stay with the Raptors for the next four years at just over 40 million per year. And what a steal he was.

Lowry has been everything that Torontonians love in an athlete. He plays with a never-say-die attitude and leads the team fearlessly. It’s no surprise that he captured the imagination of the entire nation, even garnering a tweet of support from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Lowry absolutely carried the team in the absence of DeMar Derozan, playing better in that stretch then almost every player in the Eastern Conference not named Lebron. While discussions of Lowry being NBA MVP are far fetched, there’s no doubt that the Villanova product is the heart and soul of the Raptors.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s hoping that in the stretch run that the Raptors can make a list of moments that will dwarf these ones.


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