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Raptors aim to wind down season on positive note


The Toronto Raptors conclude their 2023-24 season with a pair of games in Miami against the Heat starting Friday night in South Beach.

The Raps will follow Friday’s contest with a matinee to close out the season Sunday afternoon.

Watch Friday’s game LIVE on TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, and the TSN App at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

After losing 15 games in a row from March 5 to April 3, the Raptors earned two straight victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards last week. But their momentum didn’t last as Toronto dropped games to the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets earlier this week, putting their record at 25-55 with two games to go.

Unless they’re able to win both games in Miami and match the 2005-06 Raps at 27-55, Toronto’s 2023-24 season would be the fifth worst in franchise history in terms of winning percentage, and their worst since 2002-03. 

There’s no secret it’s been a difficult season for the Raptors. Trades of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby changed the look of the roster, and season-ending injuries to Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl forced the team to finish the year with a skeleton crew.

Still, the team has been impressed with rookie head coach Darko Rajakovic’s disposition amid a challenging first season. 

“No matter what the situation is, no matter what the circumstances are, whether he’s got five G Leaguers out there playing at one time, his approach every day has been beautiful,” Gary Trent Jr. told TSN’s Josh Lewenberg earlier this week. “He came into a tough situation and knew there was going to be a learning curve, but Darko has been great. Second to none when it comes to making sure team camaraderie is good, making sure everybody is still focused in, trying to make sure everybody feels included, making everybody feel like they’re cared about and thought about.” 

“This is his first time having a head coaching job in this league, but honestly, wherever he’s been before I would venture to guess he hasn’t had this much change, this many variables, this many things happen. So, he’s done a great job of keeping the team even keeled,” veteran guard Garrett Temple said to Lewenberg.

While the Raptors try to finish things on a positive note, the Heat head into play Friday needing all the wins they can get. Miami currently sits in the eighth Eastern Conference spot at 44-36, meaning they would need to win in the Play-In Tournament to qualify for the postseason.

If the Play-in started Friday, the Heat would go on the road to face Joel Embiid and the seventh-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. If they lost, they would need to beat the winner of the ninth and 10th seed.

The Heat could have assured themselves no worse than the seventh seed by beating the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday and then taking both games against the Raptors. But instead, Erik Spoelstra’s team was blown out by the Mavs, complicating their road to the postseason.

“We didn't come out with as much intensity as we should have," said Heat centre Bam Adebayo. “We've got to be better than that.”

“We have a great group,” Spoelstra said. “We have a very competitive locker room. We all want the same thing. And sometimes, this league can just really humble you. And that's what happened tonight.”

The Raptors and Heat have split the season series to this point, with Miami taking their Dec. 6 meeting in Toronto 112-103 and the Raps punching back with a 121-97 road victory on Jan. 17.