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Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 112, Bulls 103

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Please get your “the regular season is too long!” takes ready, because we have seven more of these games to go.

Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 112, Chicago Bulls 103, Kawhi Leonard Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors, Bulls, yada yada, Raps win, this game doesn’t matter.

On to the thoughts!

Well, Hold On. Doesn’t It Matter a Little?

We’ve sort of taken it as a given that the Raptors are locked in to the #2 seed in the East, and while it’s mathematically possible for that to change, realistically, it won’t.

But it’s also important to note that the Raptors currently have the #2 record in the league; the Warriors and Nuggets are both two games back of the Raptors in the win column.

I know it’s looking ahead, but that #2 overall seed could make a difference in the NBA Finals. You certainly don’t want to have to play a game seven on the road, whether it be in Oakland, Denver, Houston or wherever. So while jockeying for position in the East might be over and done with, I think the Raptors might want to make sure they stay ahead of the West over the next two weeks... just in case they reach their first-ever NBA Finals!

For the Love of God, Don’t Put Pascal Back In!

When OG Anunoby went down after getting smacked in the head in the fourth quarter — with the game well in hand — Nick Nurse made a head-scratcher of a decision and put Pascal Siakam back in for the final 4:10.

I know the Raptors only had 12 guys on the night with Malcolm Miller, Jordan Loyd and Chris Boucher down with the 905. But Siakam had only played 17 minutes up to that point, and I feel like he definitely could have used the rest of the night off — to say nothing of the possibility of him getting hurt.

I guess there wasn’t really much choice. With Jodie Meeks, Patrick McCaw, Norman Powell and Jeremy Lin on the floor, the only other two “bench” players available to replace were Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka. Nurse probably didn’t want to risk Ibaka, as one of his only two bigs, but I think the move might have been to go to VanVleet, who, while no less important than Siakam, could just float between the three-point lines and not have to mix it up inside.

Anyway, nothing bad happened (and Siakam only ended up with 21 minutes, no starter played more than 22, and no Raptor played more than 25), and I’ve now spent three whole paragraphs second-guessing a 52-23 coach on his substitution patterns in a blowout win.

I might have to reduce this column to “Three thoughts” for the duration of the regular season.

Jack Armstrong, the GOAT

As announced by Matt Devlin during the opening quarter last night, Jack Armstrong has won his third consecutive Canadian Screen Award as best sports analyst:

That... is pretty awesome. And well-deserved! Jack’s analysis is not the deepest, but he brings enough to the table to keep things interesting; perhaps more importantly though, he allows his personality to shine through (and, yes, some of it is schtick, but come on, that’s the biz) and he enjoys the games, and it’s fun listening to someone who enjoys the games. I mean, he openly declared he was “gonna have a few pops on the air” in his final game, whenever that may be, and managed to tell a classic “I though Sports Illustrated was calling me to talk about coaching, when all they wanted to do was sell me a subscription” story as well!

He even snuck in a shoutout to his old partner Chuck Swirsky (doing radio play-by-play for the Bulls) on the broadcast!

Jack is great, kudos to him for the award, and we’re lucky to have him.

How Much KLow Do We Have Left?

Speaking of Jack Armstrong, in the second quarter last night he and Matt Devlin were talking about Kyle Lowry’s recent 33rd birthday and Jack said he thinks Lowry still has a few years left in the tank. He then cited Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and John Stockton as point guards that had long careers with great success even in their final few years.

I’m... not so sure.

For one, Lowry takes a lot more punishment than those guys; Kidd and Nash were slithery, and Paul and Stockton tended to dish out the hit rather than take them. For another, Lowry, uh, also, ahem, carries a little more weight on his frame, then those guys... ahem. Those players’ teams also learned to significantly reduce their PG’s minutes in their latter years, something we haven’t seen Lowry do yet — the Raptors rely on Lowry a lot.

What’s going in Lowry’s favour is his “late bloomer” status; unlike Kidd and Paul, for example, who were stars pretty much from the moment they came into the league, it took Lowry a while to earn consistent PT and minutes. He’s played less overall at this point in his career than those guys did.

Also, despite seemingly constant minor injuries, hasn’t had any serious injuries or major surgeries on his knees or back, which can really derail a career.

So what do you think? How many years does Lowry have left? If he signs another three-year deal when his current contract is up after next season, is he still playing at a high level when it ends?

My MVP Take, Because Why Not

Perhaps you made a wiser choice than I last night and decided to watch Rockets-Bucks, a much more interesting matchup than Raptors-Bulls, featuring your two prime MVP candidates, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. The Bucks won, and the MVP hot takes were unleashed, so here’s mine.

Harden’s candidacy seems to be based on the fact that, last year, he was the best player on the best team and won MVP, and this year, he’s following it up by throwing the team on his back when it was missing players due to injury, and has put up even better offensive numbers while keeping the team afloat in the tough Western Conference.

All of which is true!

But Giannis is the best player on the best team this season. He’s “kept his team afloat”... atop the NBA standings, pretty much the entire season.

If you wanna vote for Harden because you think he’s the best player, period, that’s one thing. Personally, I think it’s Giannis this year, but we can agree to disagree; Harden is incredible. But if your argument is that Harden had a dominant two-month stretch and he didn’t let his team falter... I would argue Giannis has had a dominant six-month stretch and hasn’t let his team falter either.

My non-existent vote goes to Giannis.

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I barely mentioned last night’s game in this column on last night’s game! The Raptors won by nine, nothing too interesting or exciting happened, OG Anunoby was hit in the head but seemed OK post-game, so... uneventful! Let’s hope the next seven are similarly uneventful.