As the HQ explains, last night was essentially the best loss possible for a lottery-bound Raptors squad, looking to get experience to a very young core...
It's not exactly fun to be cheering for your team to lose.
No matter what the sport, and no matter what the "greater good," it just feels a bit weird.
Maybe that's why as the final horn sounded on last night's 98 to 93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, I couldn't help but feel pretty good about things in Raptor-land for once.
Yep, the team lost again, making it their 58th L on the season, but they fought to the finish and barely lost to a much deeper and talented Philly club.
Nothing to be ashamed of, and no need to actively route for the other side.
Hell, if this match would have been an extra few minutes, it could easily have been a Toronto win as the Raps got within three points with about six seconds left.
Unfortunately the drawn-up play, designed to get an en fuego Jerryd Bayless free for a 3 point attempt, was executed in a rushed manner, resulting in an air-balled shot and well...that was basically it.
Interestingly, the play was drawn up by one PJ Carlesimo, not by Jay Triano, who minutes before had been tossed from the game.
It's still not clear exactly why Triano was tossed, but both he and Reggie Evans were visibly upset at a lack of a foul call on a previous play that saw Evans get his shot blocked by Andre Iguodala. Said outburst and subsequent ejection really stood out in my mind though, as the team seemed to rally around their coach and shift into attack mode, even moreso than they had done in the previous quarter.
I've been tough on Triano and his staff at times this season, but it's hard not to look at last night's game and applaud the job he and his staff have done this year in terms of motivating the troops. I feared a few weeks ago around the time of the Julian Wright incident that he had lost the group, but here they were, in the fourth-last game of the season, on the road, minus their big guns, fighting a Philly team that was not only playoff bound, but still fighting for seeding.
I think that says a lot.
I think it also says a lot about the players who did play yesterday evening.
No Andrea Bargnani, no Amir Johnson, no Leandro Barbosa, no Jose Calderon...and no Sonny Weems, who didn't return in the second half due to an undisclosed knee issue.
Instead, it was the Jerryd Bayless and DeMar DeRozan show as they combined for 51 points, and got a major boost from other guys like Ed Davis and Reggie Evans, as well as various players off of Toronto's bench.
This was a true team effort, and besides accomplishing the goal of keeping the team's lottery odds alive (the Raps remain tied with the Wizards for the league's third-worst record), the game also provided some much needed minutes for ostensibly the franchise's future.
This is what it's all about as the games wind down, and frankly I hope that the aforementioned quartet plus Weems don't see anymore action from here on out.
Sure, it probably means a bit of a "tanking" strategy in terms of rolling out a much less talented and experienced group.
But based on the way this group played last night, you could argue that it's hardly a tanking strategy at all, and that the fostering of their competitiveness in addition to providing them with valuable experience is just what the doctor ordered.
Whether it results in a win in one of Toronto's final three games or not.