Raptors Notes: Playoffs, VanVleet, Trent Jr., Lowry

Following Cleveland’s loss to Orlando, the Raptors beat the Hawks by a score of 118-108 on Tuesday night, clinching a playoff berth as a top-six seed in the East, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. After the game, coach Nick Nurse indicated he would rest Fred VanVleet, who’s been hampered by a sore right knee since before the All-Star break.

He obviously is not 100 percent but he’s lacing them up and giving everything he’s got…I give him a lot of credit,” Nurse said (Twitter link via Michael Grange of Sportsnet).

Nurse also suggested he’d rest other banged-up players in the final three games, Grange tweets. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports observes (via Twitter), one additional benefit of making the playoffs outright is the team will get an extra six days rest between the final regular season game and its first playoff game, which could be crucial for injured players like VanVleet and OG Anunoby (quad), among others.

Here’s more on Toronto:

  • The Bulls fell to the Bucks on Tuesday, so the Raptors hold a one-game lead for the No. 5 seed in the East. Both teams have three games remaining, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker due to a better head-to-head record. Toronto closes its schedule with games against the Sixers, Rockets and Knicks, while Chicago faces the Celtics, Hornets and Wolves, per Lewenberg (Twitter link).
  • Gary Trent Jr. earned a couple of $75K bonuses recently — one for the team winning 45 games, and another for making the playoffs, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. If the Raptors finish as a top-five seed, Trent will earn another $75K bonus.
  • Toronto’s roster is undeniably influenced by Kyle Lowry, according to Lewenberg. Eric Koreen of The Athletic makes a similar point, stating that the team has been constructed in the spirit of Lowry. “They play hard every night,” Lowry said before Sunday’s game, his first in Toronto as a member of the Heat. “They’re all over the place. They scramble. They’re athletic. They help each other very well. They don’t give up much. They remind me a lot of just the team that, when we were down 15 in the fourth quarter, we find ways to win games, scrap and claw and find a way, and fight to win a game. That’s what these guys do. There’s never a moment where they just don’t feel like they can’t win the game.”
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