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Toronto Raptors

Eight observations: Toronto Raptors tie a bow on record-setting season with win over Denver Nuggets

That'll do it.

On Friday, the Toronto Raptors played their final game of the 2019-20 regular season, defeating the Denver Nuggets by a final score for 117-109.

Stanley Johnson led the way for the Raptors with 23 points, while Paul Watson (22), Norman Powell (15), Terence Davis (14), Matt Thomas (12) and Malcolm Miller (10) each scored in double figures.

For more on the game, here are some quick observations...

1. The playoffs are here

The Raptors were extra cautious against the Nuggets, sitting Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka.

While Lowry, Siakam and VanVleet were each out with rest, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said before the game that Anunoby and Powell have been dealing with some knee swelling. Fortunately for the Raptors, MRIs have come back clean for both of them and they are expected to be available for Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.

Without Lowry, Siakam, VanVleet, Anunoby and Ibaka, the Raptors rolled out a starting five of Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Norman Powell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Marc Gasol against the Nuggets. Entering this game, that lineup had logged a grand total of ... zero minutes together on the season.

2. The greatest regular season in franchise history

Win percentage-wise, anyway.

In winning 73.6 percent of their games this season, the Raptors set a new franchise record. The previous record was 72.0 percent, set in the 2017-18 season when the Raptors finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

It feels like we've spent all season saying it, but it really is incredible that the Raptors have been able to have as much success as they have this season despite seeing two of their starters in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green walk in free agency and being one of the most injury-ridden teams in the league. It's a testament to how much everyone on the roster has improved, how hard they've worked and how much of a magician Nurse is.

"Probably people didn't expect us to have this kind of season, but a lot of guys stepped up, a lot of growth I think for a lot of players," Nurse said before the game. "I think our defence was great, I think there was a lot of resiliency considering we had a lot of injuries too."

Now let's see if they can carry that success into the postseason.

3. Nobody scores on Marc Gasol in the post

Gasol only played 16 minutes against the Nuggets, but he wasted no time making his presence felt by poking away a couple of loose balls against Nikola Jokic in the post in the first quarter, one of which sparked a fastbreak opportunity.

It was a reminder that Gasol is almost impossible to score on in the post. According to NBA.com, he has allowed only 0.57 points per post-up possession this season, ranking him in the 96th percentile in efficiency. Opponents have a hard time holding onto the ball against him, as Gasol has created a turnover on over a quarter (27.0 percent) of the post-up possessions he's defended.

Now, the defensive numbers are far from perfect, but they do back up the eye test in the case of Gasol. We've seen him give back to the basket centres like Nikola Vucevic and Joel Embiid trouble in the past, and he was able to disrupt Jokic in the limited minutes they were matched up with each other in this one.

4. Oh, Marc Gasol can pass too

You know, in case you forgot.

First there was this...

...followed by this:

B-E-A-utiful.

5. Welcome back, Terence Davis

The season restart has been a bit of a struggle for Davis. Through the first seven games, he averaged 4.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 12.6 minutes on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range, all of which were well below his season averages.

That's why it was encouraging to see him come out aggressive against the Nuggets.

He set the tone in the first quarter by doing a little bit of everything for the Raptors, scoring 12 points while pulling down three rebounds, dishing out two assists and coming up with two steals. Davis was doing his best Kyle Lowry impression by pushing the ball in transition and confidently stepping into 3s.

Davis said afterwards that he lost his confidence in the seeding games, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic, so maybe this game will help him get back on track.

6. Something has gotten into Stanley Johnson

Credit to Johnson for making the most of his minutes over the last couple of games. He scored only five points against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he dished out a season-high four assists and made the game-winning basket. Against the Nuggets, he scored a season-high 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

A career 29.1 percent shooting from the perimeter, you know Johnson is feeling it when he's doing stuff like this:

Does this mean we'll see some of Johnson in the playoffs? I doubt it. But he has a player option in his contract for $3.8 million next season. If he picks that up to return to Toronto, more of how he played on Friday sure would be nice.

7. A closer look at Paul Watson

Watson has spent almost all of this season in the G League, where he's appeared in 30 games with the Raptors 905 with averages of 19.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

In only his eighth game with the Raptors, Watson showed off some of his potential by knocking down four 3s and throwing down some powerful dunks en route to 22 points.

Like Johnson, it probably doesn't change anything going into these playoffs, but there might be more minutes up for grabs next season. Nurse is certainly high on him, as he told reporters after the game that Watson is going to "be part of our future from what I can see so far."

8. What's next

The playoffs!

On Monday, the Raptors will open their first-round series with the Nets. We're still awaiting broadcast details for Canada, but the game will start at 4:00 p.m.

If you're interested, click here to read a full preview of the series and click here to listen to a full preview of the series.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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