We made it.
After 48 long minutes in a city hungover from the goofy charm of Kyle Guy, the Raptors finally have meaningful basketball ahead of them. We’re talking playoffs!
But, this is the recap, so let’s jog through the 82nd and final chapter of the Toronto Raptors 2019 season. This affair started out as you might expect: like an un-officiated YMCA game. This was an insignificant game and both teams played like it early. The Raps and Wolves floated down the floor on each of their respective offensive possessions, skipped the ball around the perimeter until someone decided to either shoot a 3, or attempt the most uncontested of layups.
Games like this one really make you question the length of an NBA season. When guys are checked out to the extent that their coach is the sweatiest guy on the floor, you know there’s a real problem.
But for all the lack of effort displayed early on behalf of Toronto, it was still only a 1 point game following what was Minnesota’s largest run of the night. Sheesh.
Don’t worry, it would eventually get better (could it have possibly been worse?), but before we get to that, I’d like to direct your attention to a play that very eloquently summed up the brand of basketball that was on display in the first quarter:
Thankfully for the eyeballs of Raptors fans, an entirely different team took the floor to start the second frame. Defense became something Toronto was conscious of. Guys were taking advantage of the unsurprisingly shoddy defense being played by Minnesota, and what was a sloppy 1 point deficit, quickly morphed into a decisive lead midway through the second quarter.
Now part of that was due to the collection of strangers Saunders threw out onto the floor to begin the second quarter, but the other part was the incredible effort we saw from the Raptors bench. The man at the helm of that effort? Chris Boucher.
April 9th 2019 will, for all intents and purposes, forever be known as the Slim Duck game. Posting career highs of 15 points and 13 boards, tacking on 2 blocks and displaying the highest effort level of any player on the floor, he was truly a treat to watch.
Behind the vibrant energy of the G-league MVP, the Raptors second unit asserted their dominance on the Timberwolves band of 10-day-contracted misfits, and never looked back. Toronto amassed a 22 point lead to end the first half, behind 5/5 shooting and 11 points from Boucher and a 62% clip from the field as a team.
The second half of this game was more ceremonial than anything else. The Timberwolves went on a mini-run to close the gap to 13 at one point, but the Raps bench responded yet again to balloon their lead back up past 20.
We got to see Lloyd, Boucher and Miller share the floor for the first time this season in the fourth quarter, which was a pretty cool moment for hardcore Raptors fans who were still tuned in. The development system in Toronto is truly elite, and the presence of 3 guys who were a product of that system on an NBA court together speaks volumes to the pedigree of the 905.
Special shout out to Jack Armstrong, who had one of his all-time great regular season games in the booth. I’m not sure who over-served him at the Minneapolis Keg during shootaround, but the reactions coming out of his mouth were some of the most enjoyable pieces of commentary I’ve heard all season. Never change Jack-O.
With last night’s win in the books, the Toronto Raptors secured the second best record in the NBA, and will hold homecourt advantage in the NBA finals, should they find themselves there in June. For now the Raptors faithful must sit and wait for the remainder of the NBA season to play out tomorrow night, before Toronto’s official first round opponent is decided.
As much as we want to ignore it, everything Masai Ujiri has built in Toronto over the past decade, has led to this postseason opportunity. What the Toronto Raptors will do with that opportunity hangs in the balance. But until the 2019 playoffs begin on Saturday afternoon, this team and all those rooting for it, will be left to fantasize.
Signing off for the 24th regular season of Toronto Raptors Basketball, that’s all folks!