Tip-In: "A Fitting End" - Heat's B Team Wears Down Raptors 97 to 79 in Season Finale


And that's all she wrote.  A 97 to 79 loss to the Miami Heat ends the Toronto Raptors 2010-11 season with a 22 and 60 record.  The HQ breaks down the season's final loss...

The last game of the season is always a weird one to attend as media.

It's too early to start asking questions about the off-season, the future, and the season that was, and yet you can tell these type of questions are on everyone's mind, coaches and players included.

A perfect example of this occurred post-game when I was talking to Julian Wright.

I was asking him about the game specifically, and part-way through his answer, he noted that he couldn't help but think "what next" as the final minutes ticked away in last night's game.

"It's over too soon" said Wright.  "My first two years in the league I played in the playoffs and the last two haven't...those guys are lucky to be on playoff teams and I don't take it for granted, the season flies by."

And it does doesn't it?

Even though this has been a rough year for Raptors' fans, in some ways it seems like we just kicked this thing off.

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that we were debating the Kleiza signing and gushing over the pre-season impact of Leandro Barbosa?

No?

It seems this way every year to me and even though this year definitely dragged at times thanks to Toronto's on-court performance, it's hard to believe another regular season is done.

Now Raptors' fans face a very long summer, one that is as murky as any I can remember.

For starters, there may not be a season next year.

Summer League has already been cancelled, and it looks like everyone's bracing themselves for a work stoppage.

In terms of the Raptors themselves, the team's ownership, management and coaching situations are in limbo at present, and because of that, it's extremely hard to get a read on what to expect going forward in terms of the team's personnel.

A personnel that desperately needs some veteran help.

Last night's game was a laugher on many levels, a meaningless affair that saw Miami's bench and role players out-last a tired and again, severely undermanned Raptors' squad.

But the one thing that stood out as plain as day was the Dinos' lack of experience.

Sure, Toronto may have had the two most talented players on the court in DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, and perhaps their eight-some had more upside than the "over-the-hill" Heat, but while Miami ran its stuff systematically to near perfection, Toronto looked lost in many situations.

Again the team let a perennial scrub go off offensively (Eddie House had a career-high 35 points) and guys like Mike Bibby were left about as wide open as you can be on various occasions.  (Although Bibby somehow air-balled one such 3-point attempt.)

Even former "All-Star" Jaamal Magloire got in on the action, pulling down a ridiculous 19 rebounds in only 29 minutes of action.

Miami's vets aren't the flashiest players, but they know how to get the job done and guys like Juward Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas kept it simple and effective.

Toronto really has none of that veteran presence with the exception of Reggie Evans, and one of the common themes in talking to the players post-game was how young and inexperienced this group was.

The group also needs a leader.

While Reggie Evans may take on that role at times, when I asked Jerryd Bayless point-blank who the club's leader was, his answer wasn't any one player in particular, but rather a number of folks who took turns in stepping up.

Maybe that's fine on the Boston Celtics, but on a club like this, I'd argue that it would be nice to have at least one or two consistent guiding voices.  This off-season, besides upgrading the club's overall talent level, an emphasis must be placed on acquiring some quality veteran leadership.

Interestingly though, and I'll discuss this more tomorrow, the mood around the team in this final game of the season, seemed a lot more optimistic than last year.  Various players that I spoke to noted that the team's "youthful exuberance" helped them get through what was definitely a tough year.  (Something I expect we'll hear more of in the end-of-season player interviews getting underway in a few minutes here.)  Many felt that the future was in good hands because of the young talent that existed, and it was simply a matter of giving it time to grow and develop.

And from a fan perspective, Toronto's loss last night assured them of a nearly 16 per cent chance at a top pick, third best odds in the NBA.

Granted this draft doesn't look to be anything to write home about, but in a season like this, it's something.

And on some levels things could be a lot worse.

Post-game I watched the Kings play their final game in Sacramento, a strange and sad story that now most likely ends with another once proud franchise being uprooted and moved somewhere else.  It put the Raptors' 22 win season into perspective, as even though this was the ugliest of seasons, at least Toronto gets a "next year" to try and right the ship.

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