Denial: We are better than our record, they said to each other over and over.
Anger: Why can’t we take a break?
Negotiation: what if the circumstances were different?
And finally, as an emotionally draining campaign comes to an end and they have had time to process and make peace with their reality: acceptance, and even hope.
“We’ve had pretty much all of the obstacles, I don’t call them obstacles, I call them cement walls laid out in front of us and just as we break each other down they snap into place,” he said. said head coach Nick Nurse before Tuesday. Game. “It seems like we could never really see the light of day or run for the light of day this year and that would get frustrating at times. Then at some point … we got to a point where we had to start loving going to practice and enjoying playing the games.
The situation has not changed much. With six games to go, the odds are against the Raptors of securing a spot in the play-in tournament, which could have given them the opportunity to extend their season. In all likelihood, they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Yet they don’t bow their heads or feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they do their best to find joy in the process.
“The coach preached every day, just try to find some kind of excellence, that’s his theme the last few weeks,” Kyle Lowry said over the weekend. “Every day try to find some type of excellence.
“This game is a game of joy and fun, and when you have fun [good] Things are happening. “
It showed up on their recent west coast road swing. There were plenty of positives to take away from the trip. In the games they played, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet looked like stars. All-time performance from Lowry helped spark an unlikely win James Lebron, Anthony Davis and the Lakers.
Meanwhile, the young guys kept making headway, including Malachi Flynn, who was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April.
They faced off against four Western Conference contenders in the span of six days, despite the lack of key players in each contest. A record of 1 to 3 doesn’t do them justice, but that’s how the year went.
“We’re the best, worst team ever,” VanVleet joked after Toronto fell to 27-39 in the campaign with a 105-100 loss to the Clippers.
Now, with their season alive, they will return to Tampa and host the Washington Wizards on Thursday, a game that could end up being the source of renewed hope or the coup de grace.
“This is probably our last lucky salon,” Nurse said, using a British expression he would have used during his time as a coach in England. “I think getting that one against us would be terribly difficult for us to get over. [If] we get it, it legitimately puts us in there.
Depending on the outcome of the Wizards’ game in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Washington will hold a three or four game lead over Toronto for 10th place and last place in the Eastern play-in tournament ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
Lose and they would be almost officially eliminated. A victory would keep them alive for another day, but they would still have work to do and would need some help along the way.
It’s a game that will likely have different meanings for two teams who take very different approaches to this race. The assistants are all-in. They feel like they have to do the play-in to show their progress and appease Bradley Beal in the hope of long-term custody of the stars in Washington. It is one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having won 11 of their last 13 games, led by Beal and reinvigorated. Russell Westbrook.
The Raptors are in a very different place. They won a championship two years ago and finished last season with the second best NBA record. This year’s comeback comes with a series of baked-on excuses, from the move to Tampa to the mid-season COVID-19 outbreak. Their goal is to put themselves in the best possible position for next season and beyond which creates an odd situation to close 2020-2021.
Mathematically, they’re still alive, and it’s not that they don’t want to make the play-in, it’s just not their top priority like Washington does. This is the main reason they are resting rotational players or being cautious with minor injuries as most of the teams around them in the standings are booming. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if and when they miss one or two or three regulars for Thursday’s game, despite what may or may not be at stake.
But to win or lose, to play the lottery or the draft, whatever the end of this very difficult season, it always helps to end it on a high note.
“We’ve had fun the last few weeks as a team, regardless of winning and losing, because we’ve played the right way and we’ve all improved,” said VanVleet.
“We were hit on the teeth pretty hard,” said the nurse. “So what did I learn? I do not know. I guess no matter how badly you get punched in the teeth at any point, you have to keep getting up and then you have to do it with a smile on your face. No one wants to go to work angry all the time. I do not. I want to go and love teaching and love coaching, love competing, and you just have to keep doing it.