It was Fanapolooza night at the Air Canada Centre in the Toronto Raptors final regular season home game of the 2013-14 season and DeMar DeRozan kicked the party off by raising his team’s Atlantic Division Champions banner to the rafters. A feel good game punctuated by prizes, giveaways and contests as the Raptors picked on the depleted last place Milwaukee Bucks to chalk up win number 48 of the season 110-100.
DeRozan was given the night off to rest up for the playoffs and Toronto ran out to a 32-19 first quarter lead as Greivis Vasquez took advantage of his opportunity to start by nailing 3 long range bombs. The Raptors never trailed in this game and the result was never even remotely in doubt.
“They’re a good team,” Head Coach Larry Drew said. “They’ve been playing well. They are gearing up for the playoffs. Even minus DeRozan, it just goes to show you how much talent they have on that team. We fell behind, we tried to fight back. We got it under 10, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
In Toronto, Drew’s comments sound like the eerily familiar voices of Raptors head coaches in seasons past and with the loss, the Bucks guaranteed themselves last place overall heading into the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Raptors could afford to rest DeRozan against the Bucks who only had 9 players available as injuries have been an unpleasant theme in Milwaukee all season, however, the rationale really was to hopefully add some ‘pep to DeRozan’s step’ in the postseason.
“Amir (Johnson) has had some time off and Kyle (Lowry) has had some time off,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “(DeRozan) is the only guy with big minutes that hasn’t had time off. I can see pep in Kyle’s step since he’s had his rest, so we’ll see how it goes and we’ll see what happens Wednesday.”
Casey leaving the door open to giving DeRozan another day off against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday in their final regular season game.
DeRozan’s replacement Vasquez hit 5 three pointers before finally missing one and led the Raptors with 25 points and 7 assists. Lowry got to play off the ball with Vasquez on the court for big minutes and scored 24 points without having to shoulder his usual heavy workload. Double-doubles went to Jonas Valanciunas with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench for 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bucks were led by Ramon Sessions with 21 points, Jeff Adrien’s 19 points and Brandon Knight’s 18 points.
The Raptors are currently in third place because they hold the tie-breaker with the Bulls. If the Raptors win on Wednesday in New York or the Bulls lose in Charlotte, Toronto will finish in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto set a new franchise high for wins in a season of 48 tonight with one game remaining. Previously Toronto’s best seasons were in 2000-01 and 2006-07 when the team won 47 games.
Toronto Raptors Love Being Atlantic Division Champs
“We won the Division, it’s a great thing,” Salmons said. “Us four guys coming over from Sacramento from where we started, from where the Raptors started at the beginning of the season to where we are now, it’s a great thing.”