It's unfortunate to remember how many games the entire Raptors roster has played together. In the early season, the team's presumptive starting power forward, Jared Sullinger, was hurt. Delon Wright, the team's third guard out with a shoulder injury, waited for his comeback. There were aches and pains to DeMarre Carroll, a spate of missed games from Patrick Patterson, and a minor absence from DeMar DeRozan. Injuries suck, but they are also inevitable.
Then the trades happened, the decks were cleared and the team re-tooled with a full roster -- minus star Kyle Lowry. For another team, this could have been disaster. But the Raptors persevered, going 14-7 without their leader. It was a tremendous compliment to the rest of the squad -- the old hands, the young guns, and the new faces -- who came together to keep the Raptors winning. But we all had to wonder: what if Lowry was here too?
We no longer have to wonder. Starting on Wednesday night in Detroit, the Raptors are whole. And now here, on their last regular season home game of the season against the Miami Heat, they can give us a preview of the team they aspire to be, a version of the Raptors ready to compete against the best. We've been waiting for awhile.
Before the game, coach Dwane Casey mentioned that in the first quarter against the Pistons there was a bit of "paralysis by analysis," a delightful turn of phrase to describe the slow start of his team. Despite going down by 20 in that game, the Raptors stepped way, way up down the stretch and were able to claw their way to victory. It was an amazing run made all the more amazing by Lowry's transcendent return. It also provided a glimpse of the future.
We are left with the what if questions no longer. The Raptors are whole, in third place, and hold their destiny in their newly healthy hands. Tonight's Heat team will come at them hard, seeing as they are in ninth and desperate for a surprising playoff appearance. Are the Raptors ready for it? Let's watch.
Read up on tonight's game with John Gaudes here in today's preview. Then, let's get in the comments.