Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) chase down a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 11, 2014, in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

You know what’s nice? The last game of the season being important because it determines playoff seeding and not the number of ping pong balls in the lottery. There is a lot riding on tonight, not just for the Raptors, but more than half of the playoff teams:

  • If the Bulls win and the Raptors lose, the Bulls finish 3rd
  • Washington can finish 5th if they win and Brooklyn loses
  • Charlotte can finish 4th if they win and Washington loses I made a gross inconsistency
  • Houston and Portland can swap positions Another gross mistake; I’m not good at this
  • The Warriors, Mavs, and Grizzlies can finish anywhere from 6th to 8th The Warriors have wrapped up 6th, Mavs and Grizzlies are fighting for position; good thing this is the last time I do this this season…really suck at it

What does that all mean? Tonight has the potential to be greatest night of regular season basketball the league has seen in a while, starting with the Raptors who wander into New York to face a Knicks team who didn’t get the memo that their season is over, they aren’t playing for anything, but have been beating teams above them in the standings rather handedly (Raptors, Bulls, and the Nets; in that order).

The Knicks…what a beautiful disaster their season has been: no 1st round pick; no playoffs; paying your president $12m/year to not be physically there…wasting another year of Carmelo’s career. It’s almost sad, but inspite of all that, they are playing spoilers this last week of the regular season. With Carmelo a game-time decision, the Raptors can’t be looking past them to the playoffs, they need to write their own destiny. Doesn’t matter who finishes 4th or 5th, the Raptors need to head into the playoffs on a winning streak, as well as looking the part of a team that knows what the playoffs has in store for them, and are doing something about it.

Keys to the game:

  • Keep Jonas engaged throughout the game: they’ve done a better of this as of late, but the loss to the Knicks on Friday was partly a result of them totally forgetting about the franchise in the second half. Amare is enjoying a bit of a resurgence as the season winds down, but after him and Chandler, their frontcourt is weak sauce.
  • Continue to bring Amir along in the controlled fashion he’s been going at since his return. While the Raptors need him tonight, they need him more during the playoffs where blue collar work horses take on a whole different level of value.
  • Raining threes: while it’s nice to see Vasquez and Lowry light it up, everything changes in the playoffs, and the Raptors need to start taking advantage of their athleticism and get to the rack. On Friday, the Knicks were more than happy to trap hard and let the Raptors put up three after three. Go at Chandler, get him into trouble, then double-down attacking their already weak frontcourt; that’s a recipe for success.
  • Focus: this isn’t the time of year where the Raptors play down to their competition. The playoffs bring out the best in everyone, and even sub-500 teams can’t be played down too.

The line is set to even on this; it’s basically hit or miss. A win would be very meaningful for this team, regardless of who-finishes-where in the standings; living on your feet and all that good stuff, right?

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  • DryDry

    “Charlotte can finish 4th if they win and Washington loses”
    What?

    Charlotte is 42-39

    Best they can finish is 6th if they win and Washington loses, putting them both at 43-39 (charlotte 3-1 vs wash this season)

  • matthew nelson

    Why not just rest all of the starters….then if Chicago wins, we avoid a Miami dance in round two.

    • Stephen

      Because you need to win Round 1 first.

      • matthew nelson

        Your comment is an irrelevant response…there is a group of possible first round opponents that are roughly in the same difficulty category…yes we have to beat one of them. But, if we do beat one of them, why not try to rig it so that we play a team that is barely over .500 since the all star break and falling apart at the seams who we happen to match up with well.

        • FLUXLAND

          The regular season is what is irrelevant. You shouldn’t be assuming that is how they will play in the playoffs.

          And how exactly do the Raps match up well? What position do you see them having a clear advantage over?

          • Rapchat

            The regular season is irrelevant? You shouldn’t be assuming that is how they will play in the playoffs?? Realllllly? Then why, on my other post earlier today, did you give me x amount of REGULAR SEASON STATS as reasons why the Raps are going to have trouble in the playoffs? Dumb diddy dumb.

            • FLUXLAND

              Errr.. the fact I have to explain this to you is dumb.

              You shouldn’t expect a good team who’s been playing below their capability, with playoff experience, to continue playing the same way.

              You shouldn’t expect an average team who’s been playing statistically above their abilities, with next to zero playoff experience, to continue playing the same way.. especially when that team would be facing the team with better talent and more playoff experience,

              Seriously, a child can understand this… but maybe I am expecting too much from someone who clearly does not understand anything about NBA ball.

              Also, I gave you 3 stats (because that is the only way you now how to talk about ball) the rest had nothing to do with stats. Can you read?

              • Rapchat

                The fact that you think you have to explain anything to anyone is dumb. I fully understand what your hypocritical comment was about. I made no mention of the comment other than pointing out the hypocrisy within it. You are a hypocrite. Simple. You preach but than don’t practice what you preach. Tisk. Can I read? Well you seem to be on a steady diet of explaining yourself to me, so yeah, I think my reading is great.

                • FLUXLAND

                  No, you can’t read. Because if you could, you would understand what is being written.

                  Instead, you are reading what you want to and imagining hypocrisy.

                • Rapchat

                  Your comprehension of my comprehension is retarded. The fact is, you alluded to the regular season to make a point in one post, and slammed another commenter for alluding to the regular season in another. That is a hypocrite. Do YOU understand what is being written?

                • FLUXLAND

                  Yes, I do. But because you have the IQ of a coffee mug, you still cannot understand the difference AFTER it was explained to you.

                  Not much else to say but GL in life, you’re gonna need it.

                • Rapchat

                  HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA GL in life?? Thats the best. Yes I saw your explanation, and DO understand why you used regular season stats to drive your point across, it was okay that time, because you were trying to communicate at my meagre level… I can read, I get it. Unfortunately, explaining WHY you were being a hypocrite does not mean you weren’t being one. Changing your perspective to suit each post and user is most definitely hypocritical. Also, you keep insulting my IQ, as well as others, but then feel the need to “explain” details of your idiotic posts, so what does that say about your IQ? This is where simple deduction comes into play. You are a YO YO.

                  From your own grubby fingers, directed toward me, on a post where I said the “optimists” have been right this season so far w the playoffs, almost 50 w’s, and 3rd seed:

                  “You are looking at stats and rankings.. you are not watching the games or understanding what is going on. If by right you mean delusional, you have been spot on.

                  Easiest schedule in the L since January – check.
                  Completely falling apart defensively despite winning games – check.
                  No legit takeovergame player – check.
                  No advantage in any matchup – check.
                  Playing sloppy and giving up leads – check.
                  Getting destroyed in the paint on both ends – check.
                  Mediocre rebounding team – check.

                  etc etc etc…

                  wait wait you only understand stats.

                  6-25 record against .500 teams – check
                  3-7 record in games decided by 3 points or less – check
                  1-6 record in OT – check.

                  But you can’t see that because you are blinded by almost 50 wins and 3rd seed.”

                  I am blind? I gave you 3 stats, you gave me 10.. in YOUR OWN stupid argument about not looking at stats.

                  Who’s delusional?

    • Quest

      bk is resting theirs, so we should as well that way we drop to 4th to face washington.

    • webfeat

      Home court advantage against Chicago in the ECF?

  • jjdynomite

    Sam, please fix:

    – “Charlotte can finish 4th if they win and Washington loses”
    No they cannot. Charlotte can only finish 6 or 7.

    – “Houston and Portland can swap positions”
    No they cannot. Houston holds tiebreaker.

    – “The Warriors, Mavs, and Grizzlies can finish anywhere from 6th to 8th”
    No they cannot. Warriors have clinched 6th. Only Mavs and Grizzlies can finish 7 or 8.

    Other than those gross inconsistencies, great article! :-)

    • Sam

      Gross…

      Thanks for the catch, also, thanks for the lie wrt to great article :)

  • Shockey12

    If the raptors and nets lose and the bulls and wizards win we could play the wizards in the first round and the pacers in the second round. That would be the best scenario IMO.

    • mountio

      no doubt about that

    • Saskatoon Raps Fan

      I agree. just rest the starters and see how the rest of the seeding plays out. I think brooklyn is already resting people so they could definitely lose tonite. washington will be going for the win because they want avoid miami. The charlotte Chicago game could decide it. We know charlotte will go for it as they also want to avoid miami. The x-factor is whether chicago has the motivation to challenge them for the game. I dont think its in their DNA to take a game off, so i think they can win.

      The risk obviously is that resting the starters backfires and we end up with the nets. Toronto should find a way to delay the start of the game to get a feel whats happening elsewhere haha. “Surprise” power outage anyone?

      • Will

        The Charlotte/Chicago game is actually scheduled for 7 PM so we should at least know the outcome of that game before ours is over. If Chicago loses, we’re the 3rd seed no matter what. If they win, things are still up in the air.

      • feylines

        exactly… sure 4 games have to go our way, but each of those outcomes seems like the likelier possibility of which way each would flip

    • webfeat

      Yeah, raps should play to win, but shouldn’t be concerned if they lose.

  • FREEJV

    fuck our worst nightmare is coming true. if we get 3rd and broklyn gets 6th thats fucked up.

    • Saskatoon Raps Fan

      I know teams would never admit to doing this, but they should seriously have some people watching the out of town scoreboards. Every raps game is close anyways. If they could just maintain a small lead throughout the game (no melo so entirely plausible) then decide in the last 5 mins whether to mail it in or go for the win

      I know this is a fantasy and HIGHLY doubtful to happen, but still wish they could pull it off

    • GetLicks

      Worst nightmare? Dude I’d rather face the Bobcats or Wizards too.. But sooner or later, we’re gonna HAVE to beat these other teams (Miami and Brooklyn) in a 7-game series. I wanted to avoid the nets too, but seeing as how there are so many scenarios that could happen tonight, sometimes you just gotta let the chips fall where they may. I’m just happy for playoff basketball, going in with a young team that shares the ball and plays within their roles. Just imagine if we get the nets and end up beating them, how much more respect we’ll get from the league and officials.

      • sleepz

        Brooklyn is being too coy imo. They would be favoured over the Raps in a series and they certainly have the match ups and accomplished players at the post season level. Maybe their posturing will work out for them………..but I also remember how Brooklyn has played this season when I’ve watched them and the media is all proclaiming them as the biggest challenge to Miami in the East. They may be feeling themselves a little too much right now. They’re built for the playoffs but I don’t like when everyone is on a team that hard.

        Raps go in as a higher seeded underdog and have nothing to lose. That’s the match up I would most like to see how it plays out.

        • GetLicks

          Agreed. There are pros and cons to playing any of the 3, but Brooklyn seems overconfident like they think we’re gonna be a pushover. Would be extra sweet to send them home.

          • sleepz

            Don’t get me wrong. I know why they are eager to play the Raps. Just in any sport, sometimes a sure thing looks to certain and things can happen, although a 7 game series in the NBA tends to show who is the better team..

  • Paul

    Brooklyn is aiming for us. I say let them come. Only thing I fear from the nets as their small ball lineup with Pierce at the 4, because we don’t have a SF/PF to match. Still would be interesting to see how we can adjust over a long series.

    • CJT

      Would Landry match up well with him? Compared to the other options i mean.

      • Paul

        Not a bad thought. Works defensively, and Landry’s shooting deficiencies might be less of an issue at PF. Too bad Casey will never play him. Really speaks to how broken his shot must be. His career is on life support at this point.

    • Marco belchior GOON

      This disrespect from American media espn is pissing me off! I hope it’s pissing the raps off as well.
      Numbers never lie host is an idiot and knows nothing about the raptors. Raps being 12th in the power rankings even though they’re top ten offense defense is total bullshit!! If the nets want us and get us they should feel it every second they’re in the ACC!! Toronto as a city needs to step up and show’me what’s up!!
      Go raps!!!

    • c_bcm

      I think Landry Fields and 2Pat could be a good mark for him.

  • RecentRapsFan

    I seriously do not like the Nets right now. With their little mini tank job, they decide the playoff fate for around 3 teams if they decide to win or lose. With how they’ve proven there are being strategic, I’m sure they’ll have some one near by monitoring the Raps, Wiz and Bulls games. I really hope whoever they meet in the first round, eliminates them.

    • derek

      yeah fuckin dicks

  • Quest

    BK is sitting deron, joe, livingston and teletovic. they are TRYING to lose, and the wiz are going to fight hard vs a weak boston team. we also know that chicago never takes a game off, so i think it would be best for the raps to take this game easy, maybe sit demar and amir so they can heal and also klow so that he can get some rest. maybe even vazquez since he has been getting lots of burn lately. i hope we get to see some buycks, stone and fields. i want to see what they can do.

    hopefully we can get the 4th seed vs washington as it would be the easiest path to the ECF.

  • Adriiian

    Fuck the Nets. I want to play them and win.

    • monocled_gentleman_scholar

      I want Garnett’s scalp.

  • Mickg

    Not to add pressure but the Raps can win the NBA Championship Belt 2013/14 tonight if they beat the Knicks, no wonder the Knicks have been playing so hard this is all they have left!!! http://nbachampionshipbelt.com/

    • sitnonDFence

      AWESOME. I totally forgot about this fun little gem.
      MickG commenter of the year. You totally just made my day! Lowry and DEmar suit up, playoffs be damned!

    • noname

      Never heard of it n’or do i get the formatting. Is this a real thing cuz i don’t remember ANYONE acknowledging it before.

  • database_666

    the only reason i would not like to play Brooklyn is that they enjoy a tremendous amount of ref calls and bias on behalf of the star power they loaded into starting, second and third lineups, compared to Raptors. cheap foul calls on pierce, johnson and garnett will be raining, and that will detract our defenders and allow the opponents open looks from the perimeter. i have seen this many, many times over, and i would rather play washington or charlotte, it is a far more fair game and balance between the clubs.

  • Mexiballer

    I will be very surprised if Brooklyn does not throw their game tonight. But oops…what if the Raptors are losing! But Ooooops what if the Wizards are losing. Kidd will have to tell his players to pick it up and go for the win instead. I personally think we should do what ever we have to do and face whoever we have to face, If its Brooklyn…bring it on.

  • Derek G

    So it looks like The Nets threw their game tonight against Cleveland in order to draw us in the first round. I say Fuck the Nets as well lets crush them regardless.

    Assholes.