The Toronto Raptors tried to tell everybody but were much more effective in showing us. The longest and most disrespected title defense in NBA history ended Friday, a series of regretful shots and lamentable errors dooming them in the final minute of a very winnable Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But what they showed in defeat to the Boston Celtics — and during a season in which they made detractors respectfully refer to them as defending champion — is to never underestimate the heart of mid-to-late first-rounders, second-round picks and undrafted free agents. Champions come and go. Those with an eternal point to prove won’t let you escape; they make you deal with them.

Not many entered this season expecting the Raptors’ run to end in the same place where you-know-who hit the greatest shot in franchise history. Not after he secured the Larry O’B and took his Finals MVP trophy back…





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