Toronto Raptors

NBA Playoffs 2019: Steve Clifford: 'This is by far the best team they've had during this stretch'

Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry
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The Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic 115-96 in Game 5 to clinch the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

MORE: Takeaways from Raptors' series-clinching win over Magic

The win marked a number of historic records for Toronto.

It was the first time in franchise history that they won a seven-game series in less than six games. It was also the largest combined margin of victory in a series in franchise history, defeating the Magic by a total of 72 points, easily passing the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals when they defeated the Miami Heat by a total of 16 points.

After the game, Magic's head coach Steve Clifford had nothing but the highest praise for Toronto.

"They got better as the series went on and we weren't ready for it," he told the media in his post-game press conference.

Orlando had taken Game 1 by way of a game-winning shot from DJ Augustin but the Raptors handled the Magic aside from that, taking the next four games in a row.

Kawhi Leonard was a problem in this series - the All-Star forward averaged 27.8 points while shooting 55.6% from the field, 53.8% (!) from 3-point range and 89.3% from the free throw line. His efficiency was incredible and he was still able to add 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals over the five-game span.

Add to it that Pascal Siakam was able to overcome his playoff woes from a season ago and the defensive force that is Marc Gasol locking down All-Star centre Nikola Vucevic and you have a different looking Raptors team than you've seen in years past.

This team is scary and there is no ceiling for them when they play as well as they did in the final four games of this series.

"This is by far the best team they've had here in this stretch. This is a terrific team," Clifford said of the Raptors.

Through all the roster turnover in the offseason and at the trade deadline, Toronto has put themselves in the best possible position to contend for an NBA Championship. The players can feel it, too.

"It's starting to click a little bit," rising forward Siakam stated. "We're starting to understand what each other does, knowing each other's spots and continuing to help each other, especially on defence. Now we're just being ourselves, playing hard."

The Raptors will be put to the test in the next round as they're set to take on the Philadelphia 76ers who also defeated their first round opponent, the Brooklyn Nets, in five games.

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