The 2022-23 Toronto Raptors season is over. Finally.

The Toronto Raptors spent all season telling us who they were. They couldn't flip the switch.

For a brief, shining moment, it looked as though the Toronto Raptors had found themselves, had flipped the switch, had become the professional, unified, and mutually supportive basketball team that they spent the whole season believing themselves to be. They were leading by double-digits over the Chicago Bulls, hitting triples, running in transition, defending together. Much like Toronto’s 2022-23 season, that moment seemed far better than it really was. It was a shining dream that evaporated in the cold morning of a too-early alarm. The professionalism collapsed into foul hunting from the refs. The unification fled. The mutually supportive offense turned into a bunch of players who can’t shoot surrounding a couple stars who couldn’t get past their defenders.

Switching-flipping, unless you’re the 2001 Lakers, doesn’t really exist. Toronto spent 82 games in the phone booth, struggling to pull the blazer off the arms, the glasses off the face, and emerged a half-clothed Superman, some superpowers firing and others dead on arrival. Flying? Sure. But perhaps not wearing pants, either.

They told us who they were, over and over. They had strengths, but not nearly enough to overcome weaknesses. They had talent, but it didn’t always work together.

Against Chicago, the signs of collapse were there, even with Toronto leading by double figure. The team was shooting a humiliating 50 percent from the free throw line as DeMar DeRozan’s daughter, Diar, shrieked during their attempts and seemed to be in their heads. They finished with 18 misses. The bench, even with the game in hand, was giving nothing. The offense, outside of extraordinary shot-making from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, was not finding consistent looks. The defense, after overloading on Zach LaVine and forcing him to make complex reads, stopped doing the thing that worked.

Toronto, at the very least, played its hits in the loss. Want a bad challenge? Nick Nurse provided that, even winning his moment in the sun — which resulted in Chicago possession anyway.

Want bad shots? VanVleet tried to tie the game with a minute left and a sprinting pull-up triple in transition, but he missed the difficult attempt.

Want bad defense? LaVine waltzed to the rim in crunch time while the Raptors had to scratch and claw to even force shots at the rim.

Want near heroics? Siakam used a ghost screen from VanVleet to drive down the lane, hold the ball away from defender while floating through the air, and thrash a two-handed dunk through the rim. Later, he drew a 3-point shooting foul with the Raptors down three and missed his second. Then his third. 

The season lived again in the play-in game. It was nasty, brutish, and short.

Strip away the varnish and what was left was mediocre basketball. Siakam had a layup attempt to cut the deficit to a passable two points with the shot-clock dwindling, the game over. Pride was on the line. He missed that, too. 

The best thing you can say about the 2022-23 Raptors season is that it died the way it lived: overpromising and underdelivering, undercut at every turn by its inherent flaws, and almost overcoming extraordinary self-sabotage. One would think the municipal heart rate of the city can slow with the stress of the season over, but an even more stressful offseason is about to begin. The future of the franchise will be decided with Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent jr. (probably), and Jakob Poeltl all free agents, and O.G. Anunoby (probably) about to be the following offseason. Neither Nick Nurse nor the organization seem to want the other. Changes will happen.

After Toronto’s pathetic collapse against the Bulls, that’s for the best. 

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