"Doesn't matter anymore": Raptors not dwelling on rough stretch this year

Mar 27 2023, 2:48 pm

It’d be a pretty fair assessment to say that the 2022-23 season hasn’t exactly gone the way the Toronto Raptors would have wanted.

Sitting one game below .500 at 37-38, the Raptors are currently listed as ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, far below their preseason expectations of sitting in the upper echelon of the league.

Off the court, it’s been a season full of all kinds of rumours: trade rumours, fire-the-coach rumours, the referees-are-rigging-the-game rumours, and everything in between.

But for now, in the final stretch of their season, Raptors players are mostly focused on, well, whoever they’re playing next. This week, it’s their penultimate home game of the season on Tuesday against Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat, before a five-game road trip begins on Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I don’t really think about [how the season has gone so far]. Just think about every day onto the next day. Like for now, [we’ve got] practice, we start getting ready for Miami. We don’t really look forward to the end of the year or look ahead,” Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby said following Sunday’s 114-104 win over the Washington Wizards in response to a question asked by Daily Hive.

“We’re staying focused on the moment and trying to get better each day. Today was a good day. Tomorrow we need another one [at practice] and Tuesday’s [game] is another jump for us. So we’ve just got to keep working,” Raptors VanVleet echoed.

The Raptors are 11-8 since making a trade with San Antonio on February 9 for centre Jakob Poeltl, their lone move at the deadline this year.

“I don’t think it’s gonna do me much good to assess the season at this point. I think that my thoughts are ‘let’s get our guys healthy, let’s continue to play as well as we can.’ It’s been pretty good basketball for the most part for a few months now, probably post-trade deadline,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse relayed prior to yesterday’s game.

The Raptors were sitting as low as 12th in the Eastern Conference on February 4, with a record of 24-30, but their recent run has at least afforded them a high likelihood of extending their season through the NBA’s upcoming play-in tournament.

With just seven games left in the regular season, the team needs four wins to clinch a spot in this year’s play-in, as they’re currently four games up on both 11th-place Indiana and 12th-place Washington.

“You are who you are at a certain point, you know what I mean? So we’ve got to grow out of that and get out of that,” VanVleet said. “We have to grow out of that and it’s a great chance for us to do that going forward. It’s the perfect time to gear up and ramp up for the playoffs.

And while fans and media can relitigate the season all they want, the Raptors’ head coach isn’t spending much time dwelling on that past.

“It really doesn’t matter anymore,” Nurse added. “Right? I mean, looking back and thinking oh, we coulda shoulda woulda? We can if we want to do that this summer. We can (second-guess the season), I guess. But my focus has to be on, you know, what’s good? Let’s polish that. What needs work? Let’s really work on that. I keep trying to, you know, get these guys to play better at both ends of the floor and see what happens.”

Tipoff is set for Tuesday’s game at Scotiabank Arena at 7:30 pm ET.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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