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Toronto Temperature: How are the Raptors looking before the playoffs tip-off?

It’s hard to accurately grade the Raptors based on the last week of performances. But let’s review things anyway and get a sense of the pre-playoff Toronto Temperature.

Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Despite the momentous occasion — the completion of another NBA regular season — we will not summarize the Raptors’ entire 82-game run here. The Toronto Temperature reader needs to have limits, and, as such, will only reflect the various moods surrounding the Raps after the past seven days. The team did just go 3-1 to round out the season, so it’s not like we won’t have good things to write about.

It’s that wave — the positive one — that Toronto must now ride right on into the post-season. The Raptors have been there in each of the past five springs, and have often also felt positive before each time. Alas, we’ve been accruing negative feelings for some time now, and even with a wildly different team, it’s hard to shake off that old anxiety.

We’ll endeavour to try though! In that spirit, Josh Kern and I are here to check in on what’s hot with the Raptors, and what, hmmm, could be better. Yes, it’s time to take the Temperature.

Who’s Hot

The Raptors as a Concept

So you’re telling me the Raptors got to 58 wins on the season despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, only their two best and most important players, in 22 and 17, repsectively? They got there without Fred VanVleet for 18 games? They didn’t have last year’s starting small forward, OG Anunoby, for 15 games? They traded a chunk of the bench — stalwarts Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles, and Delon Wright — mid-season and had to integrate new central figure, Marc Gasol, as they went along? They didn’t even have a starting centre for much of the season, opting to flip their lineup depending on match-ups? This was all done with a rookie NBA head coach? And they still got to 58 wins?

I’d say the Raptors are pretty good. And that’s even setting aside the mostly cream-puff schedule they’ve had for much of the past couple of weeks. Bring on the playoffs.

Fine Three-Point Shooting

The Raptors have a McDonald’s promotion that grants anyone with the McD’s app the chance to pick up a free medium serving of french fries if the team hits 12 threes in a game. The Raptors arrived at this promo after the old Pizza Pizza “score 100 points in a win” became economically unfeasible (e.g. they’d have to do it every game), causing panic in the streets. Still, the way the Raptors have been shooting as of late, McDonald’s may be sweating it out now too.

In the last four games, the Raptors cleared 12 threes three times, with outings of 15, 16, and 16 makes in those three contests. (They only hit nine in their game against Charlotte, a weird loss.) Over the past week they’ve put up the ninth most threes in the league, and made the fourth most (in a three-way tie with Memphis and OKC), giving them the sixth best percentage in the league (with the Grizz again). This is a hyper-specific way of also getting around to mentioning something else: the Raptors have finished the season with the fifth best offensive rating in the league (and fifth best defense) — giving them the third best Net Rating. The two teams ahead of them are the two they’ll likely have to beat for the title — the Bucks and Warriors — so at least Toronto is on pace and on track.

Chris Boucher!

Props to Slimm Duck for making the most of his late-season opportunities. After not appearing in any other games over the past week, Boucher went wild in Toronto’s season finale in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.

The Raptors (skinny) big man went off for a career-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 13 rebounds, and two blocks — plus he had the first two NBA assists of his career. We won’t likely see Boucher on the court until October — unless things go really well, or really poorly in the playoffs — but we’re not likely to forget him any time soon. I mean...

Now, over to you Josh...

Who’s Not

Jeremy Lin

We covered this in the Five Thoughts (go read it!), but Lin has essentially played his way out of whatever small role he would have had on this team in the post-season. Lin finished his regular season stint as a Raptor averaging seven points (lowest since his rookie season) and a true shooting percentage of .464 (same), as well as an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2:1. Not great, Bob! Obviously this was an extremely low-risk signing for the Raptors as their PG depth is set with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and Lin was fine filling in for VanVleet when he was hurt... but you can’t help but be disappointed that he wasn’t able to contribute a little more.

My Math

Look, I’m a writer, and numbers are not my strong suit, so when you tell me that there are still eight different outcomes based on three games featuring six teams to determine who the Raptors will play in round one... my left eye starts twitching. Thankfully our man Jay is here to break it down succinctly:

The second scenario there seems the most likely; the Hornets have the most to play for, and will probably beat the “just happy to be in” Magic, while the Knicks and Heat are already eliminated, indicating easy wins for the Pistons and Nets. So if Charlotte, Detroit and Brooklyn all win... pack your bags for the Detroit Rock City Road Trip!

The Actual Weather

Apparently the weather gods didn’t get the memo that Kawhi Leonard is a warm-weather guy, because they have conspired to make it as cold, damp and grey as possible, for as long as possible, in Toronto this Spring. There was about 10 minutes of lovely warm weather on Monday afternoon, during which I actually took my scarf off for the first time in what feels like 10 months, but since then, it’s been dreary and dark... again.

This is not the impression we want to be making! Why couldn’t we have had one of those winters where it snows twice, and one of those balmy Marches where even though it’s still chilly, the sun constantly shines and you can start peeling more layers of clothing off every day? How do we convince Kawhi that we do, actually, have that season called Spring here, and that it’s pretty awesome? Between this and that deep freeze of an All-Star game, he’s never gonna believe us.