Raptors show signs they can beat Bulls amid Nick Nurse drama

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 16: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 16: Head coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in convincing fashion for the final regular season, with a final score of 121-105. In the grand scheme of things, this game meant little for either team coming in.

The Eastern Conference postseason picture has been set with the Bucks holding the No. 1 spot throughout the entire playoffs, and the Raptors firmly entrenched in the NBA Play-In Tournament, with a date against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. However, for a team that has a lot of internal turmoil, it was a nice feel-good win to end the season at 41-41.

It seemed like the Raptors could do no wrong this afternoon. Every player contributed in some way, seven of whom scored in double figures. Gary Trent Jr. looked to be back in form, netting 23 points in 27 minutes on 7-13 shooting. He also had a rebound and three assists.

Will Barton also found his form and was able to score 12 points in 14 minutes. Seldom-used bench players like Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, and Ron Harper Jr. even managed to chime in on the fun with their best offensive games of the year.

The elephant in the room, however, was the ongoing Nick Nurse drama. Despite all of the drama, performing as they did shows that this team can hang with the Bulls despite all the negativity swirling around.

Nick Nurse has the Raptors playing hard before the play-in tournament.

While it’s still unclear as to the reasoning behind the Jeff Dowtin decision, it’s speculated that there’s a rift between Raptors President Masai Ujiri and the Raptors’ bench boss. The fact that Joe Wieskamp, still on the roster somehow, wasn’t given the same platform to shine as the other players might attest to that.

Nurse recently made his desire to ponder his future in Toronto this offseason public, leaving many to suggest that it may be the end of his tenure as head coach of the one-time championship squad.

If this is his final scene, his bench showed that they could summon the effort to play hard for him, which is a big question mark for a coach that has seemingly teased his exit from the team. Still, all the Nurse questions are not what the Raptors need going into their first-ever play-in matchup against a familiar foe.

Former Raptor star DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls stand between Toronto and their chances of advancing closer to the 8th and final playoff spot. The Bulls lost to the Raptors twice in the regular season, and they might lose a third time if the effort and tenacity displayed in the Milwaukee finale transfer over.

It will be interesting if all these looming speculations will be a distraction for the Raptors or fuel. For now, we can enjoy that Toronto finished the season at .500 instead of below average.

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