Title: Slimm Duck shines, Raptors turn in as positive a regular season finale as there is
Date: April 9, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors’ closing out their season on a fun high note in a mostly meaningless game in Minnesota.
If the Raptors make the NBA Finals for the first time ever this year, they will have home-court advantage.
That’s about all that was on the line on Tuesday in Minnesota as the Raptors routed the Timberwolves 120-100. The Raptors talked up valuing that home court, then didn’t exactly require any sort of urgency to secure it. They finish the year 58-24, a mark the Warriors can only tie, and the Raptors own the tiebreaker from sweeping the season series.
In any other year, worrying about such a thing might seem ridiculous, or at least guilty of putting the long view before the nearer, less certain situation. Think the basketball equivalent of not using Zack Britton for a save opportunity that never comes; worrying about home court in the Finals and suffering a Pyrrhic victory to secure it would have been silly. All season, the Raptors took the smarter approach, taking caution with Kawhi Leonard, giving intermittent off-days and overplaying nobody (Pascal Siakam will be the only Raptor to rank in the top 60 for minutes).
The cost of that approach was only home-court in a potential Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks; in any other series, the Raptors will play Games 1 and 2, and maybe Games 5 and 7, at Scotiabank Arena. What’s more, the Raptors finished with the best road record in franchise history (26-15), so they can be confident going on the road. (They also tied the best record any East team has had against the West since 2012-13 with a 22-8 mark.) That’s a pretty good outcome for such a messy year in terms of availability and roster consistency (and samples! my samples!).