Toronto can finally end this chapter of Raptors basketball.
After a season full of a few ups and many downs, the Tampa/Toronto Raptors are ready to move on. In a shortened season amidst a global pandemic, the Raptors were forced to play, in essence, 72 road games. Many of their 36 “home” games were defined by audible boos heard from the stands. The team started 2-8 but battled their way into a positive record and were sitting at 16-15 after an impressive 110-103 win against Joel Embiid and the eventual one-seed Philadelphia 76ers. Then things started going downhill, fast.
A COVID-19 outbreak in the team knocked out 3 starters and kickstarted a 9-game losing streak. In March, they went 1-13, their only win in what was thought as Kyle Lowry’s last game as a Raptor. While Lowry stayed past the deadline, the second longest-tenured Raptor Norman Powell was shipped off to Portland in return for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. Toronto could never recover from a disastrous March and missed the post-season for the first time in eight years.
Still, there were some positives. Toronto saw an expanded role for OG Anunoby and witnessed the development of Malachi Flynn, Yuta Watanabe, Freddie Gillespie, and more recently Jalen Harris. Pascal Siakam, who struggled with his outside shot this season, showed improvement in other areas of his game, most notably his playmaking. And we can’t forget Fred VanVleet’s franchise record 54 points against the Magic.
All in all, the season was underwhelming for Toronto. Despite the Raptors not having a playable centre for over half the season — and the team’s COVID-related absences — they still had a shot at a post-season berth. This afternoon’s contest against the Pacers will finally end a disappointing season. Hopefully, they can bounce back at Scotiabank Arena next year.
Here are the details for this afternoon’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN4, 1:00 PM EST
Toronto – Malachi Flynn, Jalen Harris, Stanley Johnson, Freddie Gillespie, Khem Birch
Indiana – Caris LeVert, Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, Oshae Brissett, Goga Bitadze
Toronto — Kyle Lowry (rest – OUT), Fred VanVleet (hip – OUT), Pascal Siakam (shoulder – OUT), OG Anunoby (calf – OUT), Paul Watson (knee – OUT), Rodney Hood (hand – OUT), Yuta Watanabe (ankle – OUT)
Indiana – Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring – OUT), Domantas Sabonis (quad – OUT), Myles Turner (toe – OUT), Jeremy Lamb (knee – OUT), Aaron Holiday (toe – OUT), Edmond Sumner (knee – OUT), T.J. Warren (foot – OUT)
The Kids Are Alright
Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris combined for 56 points last time out against the Dallas Mavericks. Harris, who has played only 13 games all season and appearing in the last eight, scored 31 points becoming the 10th Raptor to score 30+ points this season. While Malachi Flynn has been getting some time for most of the season, Harris’ emergence might have earned him a roster spot next season.
On April 2, 2016, down DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright and Norman Powell filled in and had a strong showing against a full-strength, 67-win San Antonio Spurs. It was that game that Powell showed some flashes of his full scoring potential, finishing with 17 points. Jalen Harris’ game showed those same flashes while being further along as a shooter. Let’s see if he can do it again this afternoon.
An impressive start in Nate Bjorkren’s first season had Indiana looking like a new team. After years of middle-of-the-pack regular seasons and failed postseason, this new offense spearheaded by Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon had both players fighting for an All-Star spot in the East. Since then, though, the Pacers have been in a downward spiral.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there had been concern with coach Bjorkren’s management style with the players and staff, so much so that he is unlikely to continue as head coach next season. As of now, Indiana has dropped out of an automatic playoff berth to fighting for home court in a play-in game. This season has been difficult for many franchises and Indiana is one of them.
With Kyle Lowry sitting out this game against the Pacers, we may have already seen the last of him in a Raptors uniform. If that does turn out to be the case: Lowry’s final appearance was a spectacular game against the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in which he finished with a season-high 37 points on 8-of-13 from beyond the arc and 11 assists. His other notable performances this year (e.g. against the Brooklyn Nets) showed that Lowry still has plenty in the tank.
What does the future hold for Lowry? It’s reported he wants a two-year deal with $25 million annually. Some suitors such as the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers will see how they fare in the post-season but it’s a missed opportunity. Brooklyn will only be better next season. Milwaukee still has a two-time MVP. It’s up to Lowry where he wants to go now. Will he return to Toronto? I would be more than happy to see him still wearing the uniform next season.