With nothing much to play for, and a couple key guys resting, you’d forgive the Raptors for sleepwalking through their final game of the regular season.
Amazingly, they did exactly that... and still won by 20! The Minnesota Timberwolves, folks.
Let’s see if I can breeze through these thoughts as easily as the Raptors breezed through Minnesota.
Farewell, Load Management?
Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka got the “load management” treatment last night — probably a smart move by the team, to keep those two fresh for the postseason. Perhaps more importantly, I hope that was the last time we’ll have to hear about load management at all!
A few weeks ago, when Kawhi Leonard was sitting out games in non-back-to-backs, I’ll admit I was concerned that that meant he would end up sitting out playoff games. But he’s played in every game down the stretch here, even the rather meaningless ones, so that gives me confident he can handle the playoff schedule.
And other than Patrick McCaw... this team is healthy! Finally! The timing couldn’t be better.
Shoot that, Marc!
We’ve all been impressed by the way the Raptors’ passing game has evolved since Marc Gasol arrived; it’s led to higher percentage shots and more open looks, and the Raptors are shooting the lights out from downtown since the All-Star break.
But sometimes, Gasol needs to be a little more selfish.
Last night in the third quarter, Gasol took a pass at the top of the arc, wide open — and immediately looked to swing it left, prompting everyone at last night’s RaptorsHQ social to exclaim, “shoot that, Marc!” When he saw the pass wasn’t there, he bobbled the ball briefly before finally shooting it... and knocking down the triple.
I appreciate Gasol’s willingness to share the rock, but taking those shots can help keep the defence honest.
Danny Green, All-Defense?
You can make the argument that Danny Green has been the best defender on the Raptors this year, which is pretty amazing considering this team also employs Kawhi Leonard.
There’s been a little buzz growing for Green to make an all-defense team, and I certainly wouldn’t argue. He D’s up some of the best scorers night after night, is a terror in transition, and is an amazingly effective shot blocker, as this swat of Gorgui Dieng at the rim shows:
I’m certain Kawhi Leonard will make All-Defese and I suspect Pascal Siakam will get some love as well, but Green might be the most deserving Raptor.
And the Ben Uzoh Award Goes To...
Chris Boucher! The Montreal Big Man played a career high 25 minutes, and made the most of his opportunity, pouring in 15 points, 13 rebounds and two assists — all career highs.
He added a couple of blocks as well, including this beauty defense-into-offense sequence:
The bench reaction is just perfect, too. Boucher certainly won’t see the floor in the postseason short of a blowout scenario, so this was a nice capper to a wonderful year for the guy.
So, About Jeremy Lin...
Not to pile on here, but Jeremy Lin has played himself right out of playoff minutes, and that’s... very unfortunate. Last night should have been Lin’s chance to show some value and perhaps reclaim some minutes, but instead... he was probably the worst Raptor on the floor, shooting 2-for-8 (0-for-4 from three) with three turnovers in 20 minutes.
It’s such a bummer, because Lin’s signing — on paper — looked like a perfect late-season addition for a team looking to make a deep post-season run. Instead, he’s lost his shot and hasn’t been able to find a fit within the offense, showing a rather shocking inability to execute even the simplest of plays.
It looks like the Raptors won’t need him, which is great, but it would have been a heck of a lot better if he could have found a way to contribute. Alas.
That’s it! Another season of thoughts, 410 of them to be exact, and now we move on to the playoffs — where I hope to continue writing thoughts for another two months or so! See you all on the other side.