The bizarre season in Toronto Raptors history ended in a 125-113 loss to Indiana on Sunday.
Malachi Flynn had a career-high 27 points to beat the Raptors, who finished a season thwarted by COVID-19 in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. Stanley Johnson had 24 points, Khem Birch had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and DeAndre ‘Bembry added 23 points.
The Raptors ended the season with a 27-45 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.
On Sunday, rarely used big man Aron Baynes had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who only used six players in their 38th different starting lineup of the season, just behind Houston.
Canadian Oshae Brissett, a former Raptor, scored a career-high 31 points for the Pacers (34-38), who had already landed a berth in the play-in tournament.
WATCH | Malachi Flynn scores 27 points, a career high as the Raptors end a dismal season:
Raptors coach Nick Nurse summed up the season recently, saying the obstacles Toronto faced were more like “cement walls.”
“I’m really, really proud of the way we handled things. I really think the team performed,” Nurse said before the game. “It was definitely entertaining. We were a million miles from the team in some of those games and we still found a way to play really well and together.”
Toronto focuses on next season
Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions forced a last-minute move to Tampa, Florida for Toronto, the only team to have had to play outside of its home market.
The Raptors scrambled to find living conditions. Their training ground was a hotel ballroom. The crowds at their “home” Amalie Arena were often rooted for visitors.
Still, they were at the heart of the playoff race before a COVID-19 outbreak in March sent them into a free fall in the conference standings. They went 1 to 14 that month and never recovered.
Fred VanVleet, who was hampered by a hip injury for weeks, joined the Raptors show on Sunday in the second half and said he never fully recovered from his fight with COVID-19 in March.
“I would say there’s a certain hunger and a desire for us to start next season pretty quickly. I think the adversity we’ve faced this year is probably fueling a lot of that.”
Kyle Lowry’s future?
The Raptors, whose last game at Scotiabank Arena was on February 28, 2020, played 36 “home” games at Amalie Arena. That’s the most by a displaced team since Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans to 40 games in Oklahoma in 2005-06.
It is still not certain that the Raptors will be able to start next season in Toronto.
“We miss Canada more than words can tell,” VanVleet said on the show. “We miss our supporters. We miss the Scotiabank Arena. We miss life in Toronto. Hope we come back soon and come back to where we left off next year. It will be as if we never left.
Raptor management will remain in Tampa through the NBA Draft in July, due to border restrictions.
Now, two years away from their thrilling Larry O’Brien trophy race, the Raptors are dispersing for their longest offseason in years.
One of the biggest off-season questions concerns the future of Kyle Lowry. The veteran guard did not play on Sunday, so if he signs elsewhere during the offseason, his top performance – 37 points and 11 assists – against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 3 will have been his last game as a than Raptor.
Lowry will leave a lasting legacy in Toronto.
“Kyle is the ultimate leader,” said Chris Boucher. “He can kind of take anyone’s dog out.”
The shorthanded Raptors held their ground in the first quarter on Sunday, trailing 31-30 before the second.
The Pacers opened the game with a 16-6 run at the end of the second quarter that put them up by 16. Flynn narrowed the difference to 68-55 with a three-pointer three seconds before the half-time break. .
Flynn had three threes and 13 points in the third, and the Raptors were behind Indiana 94-83 with a quarterback left.