Everything the Raptors did Sunday was geared toward playoff preparation.
Gary Trent Jr. scored 23 points as Toronto downed the visiting Milwaukee Bucks 121-105, with both teams resting key players ahead of the NBA’s post-season.
The Raptors concluded the regular season ninth in the Eastern Conference and will host the No. 10 Chicago Bulls in a play-in game Wednesday.
Raptors leading scorer Pascal Siakam, point guard Fred VanVleet, and defensive stalwart O.G. Anunoby all sat out to rest.
Trent started at guard. Malachi Flynn also started and poured in a season-high 20 points.
Forwards Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl rounded out the Raptors’ lineup at tipoff.
“It’s called post-season for a reason, it’s a whole different season,” Achiuwa said. “So we’ve got to go in on Wednesday, just be more locked in to the details and understand what’s at hand and we just got to do it.
“I’ll come up, play really hard, play tough, you know, and do all the right things.”
Barnes, who had eight points and two rebounds in 21:43 of court time, feels ready for the elimination game versus the Bulls.
The winner meets the loser of the seventh and eighth seeds game between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
“I feel like that’s me as a player. I love the competition. I love those big, hype games,” Barnes said. “I feel like that’s where I excel. I’m really hyped for those and I’m ready to play when that time comes.”
Achiuwa’s double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds paced Toronto (41-41).
Flynn and Achiuwa are typically bench players for the Raptors. Achiuwa stated Sunday’s game helped them prepare for whatever roles they might play in the post-season.
“It’s important for the rest of the guys to go out there, get a run in, staying ready,” he said. “We understand what the task ahead is and how we’ve got to stay ready and prepared for it.”
Bobby Portis Jr. scored 16 for Milwaukee (58-24) and Meyers Leonard earned a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists.
Milwaukee had already clinched the best record in the NBA. The Bucks rested superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, point guard Jrue Holiday and centre Brook Lopez.
Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said before the game that Trent would play “as many minutes as he can handle,” after the shooting guard missed significant time with an elbow injury and lower back spasms.
“That certainly had to be one of the main goals, other than winning, to get Gary on track,” said Nurse. “He came out ready to go and got a bunch of good looks and did a good job.”
Goran Dragic was booed by a sellout of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena when he came off Milwaukee’s bench in the first quarter.