TORONTO, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Toronto Raptors defeated Boston Celtics 105-103 to clinch a berth in the playoffs in NBA action on Friday night.
In front of a sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd, Toronto clinched their first playoff appearance since 2008 and sixth in the franchise's 19-year history.
"We're excited about it. It's gratifying," said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey following the game. "I'm more satisfied for the organization. This organization has been through a lot in a lot of years."
Casey is also thankful for the continued fan support during recent years of rebuilding.
"To the fans: for understanding and being patient. I know they didn't see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but again it's a process," said Casey. "You don't build Rome overnight in this league. Rebuilding is a hard gig."
With the victory, Toronto improves to 41-31 on the season with 10 games remaining.
While Toronto currently lead the Atlantic Division and sit in third place in the NBA Eastern Conference, the distance between the third and sixth seed is only four games.
"We can't be satisfied. We want to continue our goal to fight for the division," said Casey. "We saw tonight how the physicality in the game was. That's the way the playoffs are going to be; a meat grinder. We got to be able to participate and compete in that environment."
Toronto will have to battle for the division with Brooklyn (2.5 games behind) and conference with Chicago (1 game behind) and Washington (4 games behind) over the final stretch of the season.
For Casey, reaching the playoffs is not the end goal for his team. He believes the team has the right pieces to be a perennial championship contender.
"This franchise is built for a championship environment. It takes time to do that. It's not going to happen overnight," said Casey. "It takes the right pieces, the right luck, but the right culture is so important to know what it feels like to win a championship."
The pieces brought in by General Manager Masai Ujiri consists of a starting line-up with an average age of 24.2 with 24 games of combined playoff experience.
The playoff experience will be a critical step for their personal growth and understanding of Casey's defence-first vision.
"I know what it takes to win in this league. Defence wins and we're building that culture here," said Casey, who won the NBA championship in 2006 with Dallas. "That's the culture I want to bring from Dallas when we won the championship."