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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