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Quick Stat Hits: Tuning Up for the Playoffs

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As the season winds down, lets take a quick look at a couple key trends heading into the playoffs.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The season is pretty much over, with the only real question left being who the Raptors will face in the first round. For Toronto, every other question has been answered, and resoundingly so. The team is locked into second place in the East and has a shot at 56 wins, which would make this by far the franchise's best season ever.

Here are a few quick notes on some developments as the season has wound down.

The Return of DeMarre Carroll

Well, he's back. And he's looked really good in the short stretches we've seen him for.

Since returning he's played in only two games, both off the bench for about 15 minutes each, and he's made a significant impact. His on-court net rating of +17.3 is the best on the team over the last 15 games, and is driven by his 79.5 on-court defensive rating (DRTG). He's just ruining opposing bench players on that end.

It will be interesting to see whether he continues coming off the bench, or takes over a starting spot for the playoffs.

The Constancy of Luis Scola

It's been an entire season and we still don't really have an answer to this starting PF conundrum. Scola has clearly been an issue for the team. But who to replace him with? And will the team even replace him? He has been resting a lot of games lately, but it is hard to judge whether that is a means of getting him ready for the playoffs or establishing the new playoff rotation without him. Probably the former, judging by the season as a whole.

The games he has rested have told a tale -- the team is 5-0 in those games this season, including wins over the Pacers and Hawks and on the road against Memphis. Over the past 15 games, Scola has the worst on-court net rating of any player who has played 10 or more games (and a close second-worst to James Johnson if you remove that requirement). And that's with him playing most of his minutes with Valanciunas (+4.9 net rating over that time span), Lowry (+6.1) and DeRozan (+4.5).

Thompson has been very effective in his place (+13.5 net rating over 200 minutes in the last 15 games -- good for second best on the team behind Carroll), so he's a good candidate if the Raptors want to keep Patterson coming off the bench for some reason. Or maybe Carroll ends up at PF beside Powell in the starting lineup.

Most likely Scola continues starting, but look for most of the minutes to shift to Patterson, Thompson and Carroll at that PF spot.

The Importance of Kyle Lowry

We should probably still be worried about Lowry's elbow. It could flare up again any time.

But all signs point to him having recovered from that last flare up. Over his past five games played, he's shooting 43% from distance on seven attempts a game and has started hitting his free throws at an acceptable rate again (16/22 in that time, good for 73%). Those five games come over a stretch of seven for the team, so the additional rest days appear to be helping, which is a good sign for the more relaxed and less travel intensive playoff schedule.

His defence has been a little lacklustre of late (actually has a -1.0 on-court net rating because of his 104 DRTG), but that's understandable at this stage of the season. I suspect it's just Lowry coasting a bit before heading into the playoffs.

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There are more things to look at, but those are the big stories here at the close of the season. Is there anything else I missed that seems like a crucial story line heading into the playoffs?