Instead Toronto heads into game 82 with Kawhi Leonard as the star, Pascal Siakam as a favourite to win Most Improved Player of the Year, Kyle Lowry still the team engine, Marc Gasol in the middle, and so much more positivity in Raptors-land.
The 57-24 Raptors come into the season finale versus the Timberwolves with a lot already known — but still there remain a few unknowns.
What’s known is: The Raptors have won at least 50 games four seasons in a row; they’re locked in as the second seed in the Eastern Conference; and they’ll host game one of round one in the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
What’s still up in the air heading into the final two days of the NBA season are two things:
2) Who the Raptors first round opponent will be is still a question mark.
With two days remaining on the season the Raptors probably won’t know about the latter until after Wednesday nights games as their opponent could be the Nets, Magic or Pistons. According to BBall Index’s Jacob Goldstein, the Magic have a 58.5 percent chance of finishing as the seventh seed and most likely to play the Raptors. The Nets have a 24.3 percent chance and the Pistons are at 17.2 percent.
What do the win-loss scenarios look like? I’ll let TSN’s Josh Lewenberg explain so I can avoid the headache:
I did miss one scenario (because of course I did): if the Pistons win out and the Nets and Magic both win then it's status quo and the Raptors would play Orlando.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 8, 2019
It’s game 82 for the Raptors, and the fan base is starting to feel the playoff anxiety already. Are the Raptors good enough to make the NBA Finals? Will/Can they get over their playoff insecurities? To ease the worry, I provide a couple stats (although a few days old, they still apply):
Raptors pre-trade deadline: 11.5 3PM per game (14th in NBA), 35% 3P (23rd).— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 3, 2019
Raptors post-deadline: 14.4 3PM (3rd), 41% 3P (1st).
Raptors last 9 games: 15.8 3PM (2nd), 45% 3P (1st).
So, uh, the Raptors have been pretty good with Marc Gasol on the court.— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) April 4, 2019
In a little over 500 minutes with him playing they have a point differential of +16 per 100 possessions, the equivalent of a 73 win team.
Oh yah, and the Raptors play the Timberwolves tonight, a team that is injured and doesn’t have anything to play for.
Here are your details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Minnesota – Tyus Jones, Josh Okogie, Andrew Wiggins, Dario Saric, Karl-Anthony Towns
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (thumb – OUT), Danny Green (ankle – PROBABLE)
Minnesota – Jeff Teague (foot – OUT), Derrick Rose (elbow – OUT), Robert Covington (knee – OUT), Jerryd Bayless (ankle – QUESTIONABLE), Taj Gibson (calf – OUT), Luol Deng (achillies – OUT)
Game 82 Rotation
In a game that doesn’t mean much fans probably want head coach Nick Nurse to rest a couple of the teams stars and/or keep key players to limited action. It doesn’t sound like Nurse plans to do that for two reasons: he wants to keep his guys in rhythm with no games to be played between Wednesday and Saturday/Sunday, and because he wants to mix-and-match with the starters and bench.
This past Sunday versus Miami, Nurse seemed to have the plan of having Lowry and Siakam play with some sort of bench unit, while Leonard mixed in with a separate bench lineup. The Raptors had to adjust to that plan because of Leonard’s early fouls, however, and Toronto still lost many of the minutes with the team’s bench players on the floor. Expect to see some similar rotation ploys tonight.
Is it right or wrong that Nurse wants to play his key guys for heavy minutes in a meaningless game 82? That’s your opinion to make.
Against Miami, Danny Green tripped over a camera and seemed to hurt his ankle (after hurting his other ankle on the previous possession and limping off the floor). It’s still unknown if Green will play tonight versus the Timberwolves, but after Sunday’s contest he did say he felt fine. Still, if Toronto is indeed going to go with the game-plan above, the goal should at least be to stay as healthy as possible.
We know Lowry is a player that will give it his all in every game, but we really don’t need him hitting the floor. Serge Ibaka gets under people’s skin, but someone tell him Wrestlemania is over. Everyone can play, but no one needs to get hurt or suspended heading into the playoffs. And if the Raptors can get out to an early run, Nurse truly has to consider cancelling any experiments and resting his top guys.
Win for... Me
This one’s for personal reasons. My preseason prediction was the Raptors would finish the season 58-24. They sit currently with 57 wins I’m oh-so-close to being right. In this case, it’s a must-win for the Raptors. This, setting aside even that homecourt advantage is still in play for the Raptors in the NBA Finals.
Who knows, maybe then I’ll predict them to win it all in the NBA playoffs and that can come true as well. I’m pushing my luck, but it’s game 82. Bring on the Timberwolves.