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The 1-point loss that destroyed the Raptors' playoff dreams in 2001

It seems cruel to Raptors fans to bring it up again. But we're going to.

Toronto was close to making playoff history, but didn't get close enough

The National's Alison Smith introduces a story on the outcome of the seventh game of the Raptors' series with Philadelphia in 2001. 0:17

It seems cruel to Raptors fans to bring it up again, even 18 years after it happened.

That Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals that played out in Philadelphia back in May of 2001.

The one that saw the 76ers outscore the Raptors by 10 points in the first quarter, forcing the Dinos to claw their way back as the game progressed.

Antonio Davis of the Toronto Raptors is seen making a slam dunk in the first quarter of Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals in Philadelphia. (Miles Kennedy/Associated Press)

The Raptors, in fact, put more points on the scoreboard through the last three-quarters of the game.

But victory was not within the Raptors' grasp.

And the game ended with Vince Carter trying to beat the buzzer with a last-second shot and thus take his team to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time.

Vince Carter is seen just seconds before the end of the May 20, 2001 game, which saw the Toronto Raptors fall 88-87 to the Philadelphia 76ers. (Associated Press)

Instead, the hoped-for basket didn't happen, the team lost by a single point and the Raptors' playoff run came to an end on May 20, 2001.

Toronto wouldn't end up taking that next step in the playoffs for another 15 years. (And it wouldn't be until 2019 that the Raptors took the step beyond that, making it to the NBA Finals. And then winning a championship.)

It was a dagger, alright

A fan reacts to seeing Vince Carter's shot miss in the final seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2001. (The National/CBC Archives)

That tragic moment in Raptors history was presented as an unknown to the viewers tuning into The National that same night — despite the fact the game had already ended some time earlier. (It had started at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.)

"In basketball, a dagger is a shot made late in the game that seals a victory. And the Toronto Raptors had a chance to do just that tonight in a must-win playoff game against Philadelphia," the CBC's Alison Smith told viewers, about nine minutes into the evening broadcast.

"So, in the end, was it a dagger through the basket, or through the hearts of their growing legion of fans?"

'Plenty of purple'

A Toronto Raptors fan is seen watching Game 7 of the 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 20, 2001. (The National/CBC Archives)

The fans she referenced were wearing the Raptors gear of the day and sporting a lot of purple — the regal colour that was a big part of those early years of Toronto basketball.

"Toronto sports fans have a new look when it comes to the playoffs and there's plenty of purple," the CBC's Wilf Dinnick told viewers.

"That's the colour of the Toronto Raptors and this is the farthest they've gone in the NBA playoffs. It's considered a huge feat for a team that's just six years old."

Disappointment, but deserved praise, too

Toronto Raptors fans are seen reacting to seeing their team knocked out of the 2001 Eastern Conference semi-finals. (The National/CBC Archives)

A huge feat it was, but that's perhaps what also made it feel like such a huge defeat.

"This seventh and deciding game was so close. With just seconds to go, the Raptors were down by a point," said Dinnick, alluding to the 88-87 score that would not change in the final two seconds.

"It was a disappointing loss, but fans here say it's been a great run for basketball in Canada."

Vince Carter pauses as he answers reporters' questions on May 21, 2001 -- the day after the Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)