The Toronto Raptors cleared their final regular season hurdle on Tuesday night, with a win against a depleted Minnesota Timberwolves. What did we take away from the game?
Well, thank goodness. It’s finally time to start prepping for another Toronto Raptors playoff excursion.
With one final game standing in the way of the Raptors and postseason basketball, Nick Nurse elected to rest Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka for the game in Minnesota. The Timberwolves were without Karl-Anthony Towns, most notably, among others.
Trailing by two at the end of the first quarter, the Raptors and the Timberwolves both shot 45-percent in the opening 12 minutes, but the T’Wolves had the upper hand. The second quarter, however, would blow the game wide open.
Led by the stylistic scoring of Chris Boucher, the Raptors outscored their opponents 43-19 in the second quarter. The Raptors had a near perfect quarter, shooting 18-23, a lofty 78-percent. But the defense stood out just as much, forcing the Timberwolves into taking contested and ineffective shots from behind the arc and from midrange, shooting 26-percent in the second quarter.
The Raptors were able to stretch out their lead to as much as 32 points in the second half, but the Timberwolves outscored Toronto by two points in the second half. Either way, the game was never a contest after the second quarter.
Once again, Nick Nurse was allowed to rest his starters for substantial minutes and saw the bench step up into the limelight in the final game of the season.
Turnovers still prove to be a problem, with everyone who played more than 10 minutes turning the ball over at least once. Still, five Raptors finished with double-digit points and, again, everyone who played more than 10 minutes had at least one assist.
There’s definitely more reasons to be excited this postseason.
Here are my three big takeaways from the final regular game of the season.
1. Raptors come away unscathed
The might be the most important takeaway of the whole season. The Toronto Raptors came away injury-free against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, and I could not be happier to write it.
Injuries have been an issue for the Raptors all season, losing Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Kawhi Leonard all for noticeable stretches of time. There were concerns about Danny Green heading into the game after rolling his ankle in the closing moments against the Heat last time out, but he played 23 minutes against Minnesota and didn’t seem overly concerned.
The only name, currently, on the injury list for the Raptors is Patrick McCaw, and since he doesn’t project to feature much in the playoffs, the Raptors are in the all clear.
2. History made, once again
Two more Toronto Raptors records were broken last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
First of all, the Raptors bested their record for road wins in a single NBA season with the win against the Timberwolves. The previous record was 25 road wins in a season, and that was set last season with a 25-16 road record.
This year, the Raptors finished with a 26-15 road record and one total win short of tying their franchise record for overall wins in a season, finishing 58-24, and in the process, guaranteeing homecourt advantage should they make the NBA Finals.
The second record was broken when Kawhi Leonard knocked down a three-pointer with just over two minutes gone in the first quarter. It was the one-thousandth three-pointer of the season for the Raptors, an astronomical amount of threes in a season, but that’s the way the game is played now.
3. Chris Boucher’s career-night
Each season we see someone step out of the blue in the final few games of the season, obtaining minutes as starters rest in an attempt to prepare for the postseason.
Though this wasn’t out of left-field at all, it was a career-night for Chris Boucher.
Boucher didn’t lead the team in points, but he did have a career-high 15 points on 70-percent shooting. He showed a unique blend of scoring, with a three-pointer sandwiched in-between some nice cuts, finishes around the rim and a coast-to-coast lay-up. The G-Leagues MVP and Defensive Player of the Year also demonstrated his defensive acumen with three hefty blocks.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see much of Boucher in the playoffs, he’s still a working progress and there’s some way to go yet before he’ll be on the court for an extended period of time. The signs are good, though.
Make sure to check out our takeaways after each game at RaptorsRapture.com