Well, here we are at the end. This Raptors season was always going to be judged on how this team performed in the playoffs, and fans have every reason to look past tonight's game in Brooklyn and forward to the weekend, when the real test against Indiana begins.
It may be yet another meaningless game for Toronto, but how revelatory have the last couple weeks been? With the second seed wrapped up early, the team has had little reason to push themselves, yet they've continued to win -- impressively so. Dwane Casey has been masterful in balancing the minutes of his stars (something we griped with earlier in the year), working in injured players (Carroll's progression has been handled excellently), and showing off young studs (hello Norman Powell). It's given us opportunity to see the drive under this team, the clear will among everyone to play their best basketball headed into the playoffs, and not stumble in like they did one year ago.
With that in mind, let's talk about the actual reasons to watch the regular season finale tonight. Spoiler: none of them have to do with the Brooklyn Nets.
Carroll at the 4
There's a strong likelihood that DeMarre Carroll will sit out this game, but if Casey does decide to use tonight as another step in Carroll's progression back to a full minutes load, it'll be interesting to see how much of a look he gets at power forward.
Countering a small lineup by the 76ers on Tuesday, Carroll was a +30 in 20 minutes, looking awesome at the four spot with the starting lineup. The Raptors were able to switch off everything effectively, and the activity of the lineup swung an ugly game into a clean victory for the home team. Seeing more of this lineup will be instructive for how it works against non-Philadelphia teams (though Brooklyn isn't much better). With Indiana and Paul George waiting in the wings, any further success can probably be chalked up to foreshadowing.
Second Unit Minutes
Coming off a back-to-back, expect the starters to play less than they did on Tuesday. While 26 minutes for Kyle Lowry and 22 minutes for DeMar DeRozan certainly isn't a heavy load, the opportunity's there for a basic cardio workout, followed by two days completely off. 15 minutes for each is my projection, which should give them plenty of momentum headed into the weekend.
Earlier this week, Casey mentioned that Bruno Caboclo was going to get meaningful minutes with the Raptors in the last three games of the season. It was a bit surprising that he was a DNP last night in Philadelphia, but that makes it all the more likely that we'll see him tonight. Caboclo has progressed well in his second year as a pro, taking full advantage of the opportunity presented by Raptors 905, and it'd be poetic to round out the season with a "talent update" from Toronto's most beloved youngster.
The Raptors can (and should) win their 56th game of the season tonight, surpassing the most optimistic expectations set by many of us to start the season. Judgement day may not have come yet, but there's been plenty of reason to enjoy the ride.
Where to Watch: TSN National, 8 p.m. EST