It was a weird season that within the phrases of Fred VanVleet “sapped the soul” of each member of the group.
The Toronto Raptors’ season, a marketing campaign spent 1000’s of kilometres from house and thwarted by COVID-19, got here to an finish — lastly — with a 125-113 loss to Indiana on Sunday.
The Raptors had been counting down the minutes.
“I feel all of us kinda need it behind us,” VanVleet stated. “It is sort of like a blowout recreation … while you get blown out by 30, and the fourth quarter is taking all day, there’s media timeouts, some dumb coach calls a timeout and attracts up a play with 30 seconds left — that is what these previous few weeks have felt like.
“Simply making an attempt to get via it, making an attempt to place it behind us, in order that method the hope is that going ahead we’ve one thing to sit up for.”
Malachi Flynn scored a career-high 27 factors to high the Raptors (27-45), who completed twelfth within the Japanese Convention. Stanley Johnson had 24 factors, Khem Birch had 16 factors and 14 rebounds and DeAndre’ Bembry added 23 factors.
Seldom-used huge man Aron Baynes had 14 factors and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who used simply six gamers of their thirty eighth completely different beginning lineup of the season, second solely to Houston.
WATCH | Malachi Flynn scores career-high 27 factors as Raptors cap dismal season:
Canadian Oshae Brissett, a former Raptor, scored a career-high 31 factors for the Pacers (34-38), who completed ninth within the East and meet Charlotte in a play-in recreation on Tuesday.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse summed up the season just lately, saying the hurdles Toronto confronted had been extra like “cement partitions.”
“I am truly actually happy with how we navigated issues. I actually assume the group has carried out,” Nurse stated earlier than the sport. “It actually was entertaining. We had been 1,000,000 miles away roster-wise on a few of these video games and we nonetheless discovered a option to play rather well and collectively.”
Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions pressured a last-minute transfer to Tampa, Fla., for Toronto, the one group that needed to play outdoors of its market.
The Raptors scrambled to seek out dwelling preparations. Their apply courtroom was a resort ballroom. Crowds at their “house” Amalie Area usually rooted for the guests.
Nonetheless, they had been within the thick of the playoff race earlier than a COVID-19 outbreak in March despatched them right into a tailspin down the convention standings. They went 1-14 that month and by no means recovered.
“I might say that there is some starvation and want for us to get began on subsequent season pretty rapidly,” Nurse stated. “I feel that the adversity that we confronted this yr most likely fuels a whole lot of that.”
VanVleet, who’s been hampered by a hip damage for weeks, stated he by no means felt absolutely recovered after his bout of COVID-19 in March.
“I did not have one damage earlier than COVID and I have been preventing to get again ever since,” he stated. “There’s sure aches and nicks and issues that simply really feel completely different since I’ve had it … we’ll see, no one is aware of — the world on the whole — particularly at this stage of competitors. I feel all of the skilled athletes coping with COVID are gonna be the primary to see the way it impacts us shifting ahead.”
‘We miss Canada greater than phrases can say’
The Raptors, whose final recreation at Scotiabank Area was Feb. 28, 2020, performed 36 “house” video games at Amalie Area. It is essentially the most by a displaced group since Hurricane Katrina pressured New Orleans to play 40 video games in Oklahoma in 2005-06.
It is nonetheless not a provided that the Raptors will be capable to begin subsequent season again house in Toronto.
“We miss Canada greater than phrases can say,” stated VanVleet, who joined the TV broadcast for the third quarter on Sunday. “We miss our followers. We miss Scotiabank Area. We miss dwelling in Toronto. Hopefully we’ll be again quickly and we’ll be proper again the place we left off subsequent yr. It is going to be like we by no means left.”
Raptors administration will stay in Tampa via the NBA draft in July, as a result of border restrictions.
Requested to explain the season in a phrase, VanVleet stated, “Inconsistency.”
“That is in schedule, that is on this planet, that is in play, that is in well being, every thing, feelings, every thing. There was no continuity in any respect from begin to end,” he stated. “People are easy creatures. We want a schedule, we have to observe sure routines, and it was simply up and down, we had been taking part in catchup from the beginning of the season.
“You begin 2-8 and also you’re climbing up hill the remainder of the best way, and also you lastly rise up to the place you’ll be able to breathe after which all people will get COVID and then you definitely’re proper again to the place you had been.”
Now, two years faraway from their thrilling run to the Larry O’Brien trophy, the Raptors disperse for his or her longest low season in years.
Kyle Lowry’s future?
The most important low season questions concern the way forward for the 2 faces of the franchise: group president Masai Ujiri and veteran guard Kyle Lowry. Ujiri is within the last yr of his contract and has but to signal an extension.
“He is been the focus of every thing that is Toronto Raptors ever since I have been right here,” VanVleet stated. “Kyle Lowry is clearly the best Raptor of all-time and No. 2 is likely to be Masai.”
Lowry did not play Sunday, so if he indicators elsewhere within the low season, his season-high efficiency — 37 factors and 11 assists — towards the Los Angeles Lakers on Could 3 could have been his last recreation as a Raptor.
Lowry will depart a long-lasting legacy in Toronto.
“Kyle is the last word chief,” stated Chris Boucher. “He can sort of carry the canine out of anyone.”
OG Anunoby hopes the Raptors shall be that a lot better subsequent season for the adversity they confronted.
“I feel all of us grew this season,” he stated. “Everybody within the league needed to cope with it, however I suppose us a little bit extra as a result of we received displaced. Simply attending to Tampa and getting adjusted after which discovering our method a little bit bit after which having the COVID outbreak after which simply making an attempt to combat our method again, simply studying from all of it … we’re all most likely going to be higher.”
The short-handed Raptors held their very own via the primary quarter on Sunday and trailed 31-30 heading into the second.
The Pacers broke the sport open with a 16-6 run late within the second quarter that had them up by 16. Flynn sliced the distinction to 68-55 with a three-pointer three seconds earlier than the halftime break.
Flynn had three three-pointers and 13 factors within the third, and the Raptors trailed Indiana 94-83 with one quarter left.