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The Weekly Rap, Apr. 3rd-Apr. 9th: The Regular Season is Not Over

We’ve still got five more games of Toronto Raptors action, and we’re still trying to figure out playoff seeding.

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

You’d be forgiven for thinking the NBA season was over. It is not over. In fact, there are times when it feels like it will never be over. Remember when we were lazing about in January, snowed in and cold, and thinking about the inevitable post-season run by the Raptors? That was months ago. Entire empires have risen and fallen in that time. (Just look at the poor dumb Indiana Pacers, former sixth seed, for example. Or the decaying Atlanta Hawks.)

The Raptors, meanwhile, actually did need more time to get their shit together. January was a weird month. And February didn’t feel much better. Then, even with the absence of Kyle Lowry (coming soon to a basketball court near you!), the Raptors began to rise — an influx of talent will do that for a team. As of today, Toronto sits in third, and unlike other teams in the conference, appear to be building some momentum. That this all anticipates the return of Lowry is some kind of thrill, let me tell you.

But now we look ahead to make some predictions. There are still games left to play.

April 4th - @ Indiana Pacers

Somehow the Raptors have to play Paul George and this dang Pacers team again. If it feels like we’ve been seeing a lot of them lately, it’s because we have. The Raptors have played Indiana three times since March 19th, and are aiming for the smooth 3-0 sweep. And since the Pacers stink, and George actively hates playing with his teammates, it feels logical for the Raptors to pull it off. I have them winning once again, but in close fashion, by 5.

(An aside: can you imagine being Paul George, hearing about yourself getting traded, and then reporting back to Indiana to play with Monta Ellis and Aaron Brooks? Good lord.)

April 5th - @ Detroit Pistons

Eastern Conference has-beens times two! After getting done with the Pacers, the Raptors can look forward to one final visit with a Pistons team that is also determined to lose its way out of the post-season. Many had this Detroit team pegged for, if not great things, at least marginally good ones. Instead: eleventh place and a summer filled with questions. Look for the Raptors to mercy kill Detroit in this one in a tidy blow out.

(An aside: I realize many would say Andre Drummond is better than Jonas Valanciunas. He’s got more hops, he’s an ideal pick-and-roll player, etc. etc. But also: do you think the Pistons are ever getting better with Drummond as their main guy? Or is the Pistons’ problem more with the shell of whatever Reggie Jackson is now? Feels like they’re in a real predicament there.)

April 7th - vs. Miami Heat

I have this game circled, like many of you apparently, because this feels like the logical spot to reintroduce Lowry to the team. There’s a chance, of course, that Lowry will come back on the 4th or 5th, but here, in front of Toronto for the last time before the post-season begins, hits the emotional high-water mark for a return. I can picture it now, as the crowd chants and cheers, and announcer Herbie Kuhn calls it out: Kyle Lowwwwwwrrrrrryyyyyyy. Raptors crush the Heat. Come on.

(An aside: I want nothing more than the Heat to make the playoffs, get Dion Waiters back, and take a run at the Boston Celtics. The upset potential there is huge.)

April 9th - @ New York Knicks

Ditto this poor sad Knicks team. Just end this organization. I don’t have more cogent analysis to even make here except to say the Knicks are bad and the Raptors have one loss since the players only meeting back on March 16th. (And that loss, to the Hornets, only happened because of insanely freaky shooting from a mostly poor shooting team.)

The main takeaway here is this: the Raptors are up, they are up without Lowry, and they will be even more up (the most up) with Lowry back on the court. So book it: a 4-0 week, and the 3-seed is a lock. But as to who Toronto will play in the first round (or the second!): who knows.

Who ya got?

(An aside: cheers to Mitch Robson for keeping this column going all year. We’ll have one last one at the end of the regular season, looking ahead to the final game of the week, the post-season outlook, and whatever else catches our fancy.)