Heading into Game 82 of the regular season, only two things really mattered for the Raptors: staying healthy, and keeping an eye on the opportunity for home court advantage in the Finals. Tuesday’s contest against the Timberwolves offered no actual narrative; there was no bad blood rivalry, no playoff bracket posturing, no effect to consider other than that those two mentioned above. As if to prove this conclusion, the Raptors went ahead and rested Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka — and then spent exactly one quarter playing down to their competition.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining though! (And not just because a chunk of the HQ staff decided to watch this game in a bar — including me.) It was enjoyable because the Raptors did indeed stay healthy throughout, and they did indeed win — 120-100 over the Timberwolves, finishing the season 58-24 — and because, hey, we got to watch some wild minutes of play from up and down Toronto’s roster. Still, the playoffs can’t start soon enough.
Led casually by Kawhi Leonard, who had 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and six rebounds, the Raptors blew this game open in the second quarter behind a series of shooting barrages, and then never looked back. They also had a frankly comical run from Chris Boucher who had a career-high 11 points in the half — including a block that turned into a personal run-out and lay-up, and his first (and second) career NBA assist — before finishing with 15 points for the game. It was that kind of outing. Rounding out the fun from the starters, Marc Gasol had a punchy 9-and-6, Pascal Siakam clocked in for 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Danny Green put in some light work for seven points and four assists (and one strong block). Nothing to it.
In place of Lowry, Fred VanVleet balanced the bench and starting units with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and four assists, and looked just as sharp as ever. With his help, the Raptors enjoyed some strong minutes from the likes of OG Anunoby (a 9-5-2 line), Norman Powell (10 points, five boards), and, sure why not, Jodie Meeks (seven points). If I haven’t made things quite clear here, let me repeat: this was a nothing game for the Raptors, and it felt doubly so for the Timberwolves.
Need more proof? After giving the starters their customary start in the third, Toronto’s lead stayed steadily large and then they never saw the court again. The Raptors rounded out this game riding a 20+ point lead, giving heavy minutes to the deep bench — even the recently re-signed Eric Moreland got over seven minutes of burn (and managed four rebounds and a steal). Not a bad bit of work for all involved, unless you happen to be a Timberwolves fan. To that I say, perish the thought.
For the game, Toronto shot 52 percent from the field, and a cool 43 percent from three. They didn’t necessarily even have to out hustle the Timberwolves, it was just enough to show up, move the ball, hit shots, and go home. And unlike last year, no injuries hit the Raptors in the season finale. They played exactly the game they’d hoped to play and they succeeded on both that first count (no injuries) and the other more ephemeral one; to repeat: if the Raptors do indeed make the Finals, they’ll have homecourt advantage. It’s a big dream, but one that’s never felt more possible.
Let’s just call it a night there. The Raptors have finally made it to the end of the 2018-19 regular. This game may not have mattered really, but it felt good to win it anyway. The Raptors finish the season 58-24, and while they still don’t know who their first round opponent will be, they do indeed know themselves. If you ask me, that feels pretty good.