The Raptors have four games left in the regular season, including tonight's meeting with the Detroit Pistons, and literally nothing has been settled. There is much unrest in the Eastern Conference and losses like last night's collapse against the Indiana Pacers do not help. Let's run through some scenarios, from best to worst, before tip-off.
This outcome is pure sex. The Raptors can absolutely beat the dang Atlanta Hawks in the opening round, then they will presumably face the Boston Celtics in the second round. This will be a surprisingly easy take down for the Raps. And then they can go to war with Cleveland in the ECF. Sounds great.
Scenario 2: Raptors finish 3rd, Cavaliers sink to second, the Hawks stay in sixth
This season was always going to be graded against a rematch with Cleveland. If the Raptors play them in the second round and lose, so be it -- as long as they go down swinging (e.g. don't lose four games in abject blowouts). In this scenario, the Hawks are still butt and go down easy.
Scenario 3: Raptors finish 3rd, Cavaliers take the 1-seed, the Bulls move into sixth
This is where we start to tiptoe towards the nightmare situation: the Raptors are forced to play the Bulls in the first round, which is not an easy win, and then, assuming they pass them will take on the Celtics in Round 2 (still easy). I do not like the idea of playing the Bulls, period. It's an irrational fear, but it's real.
Scenario 4: Raptors finish 3rd, Cavaliers sink to second, the Bulls move into sixth
This is the absolute worst case gamut to run. The Raptors would have to play the Bulls and the Cavs back-to-back. It would kill me.
Scenario 5: Raptors fall to 4th, Cavaliers take the 1-seed, the Bucks await in fifth
OK, I think I'm going to stop here.
But that is all just (pre-written) preamble. The big news: Kyle Lowry is available tonight. I repeat: Kyle Lowry is AVAILABLE. TONIGHT. Shout it from the mountains (or just read the official tweet and smile). The unrest stops now.
Detroit is essentially out of the playoff picture, so here's hoping they just give up. They do not want a piece of returned Kyle Lowry. Like the Pacers, the Pistons are a fundamentally broken team that should be put out of its misery. Will the Raptors manage to do what they could not do last night? With Lowry back?
Here's Stephen Campbell's preview with all the details you need. Now let's get into it.