It's really simple right now. If we want this:
Then there can no longer be any limping to the finish line. It's as simple as that. Boiling down to one game against the Chicago Bulls, everything will be on the table, ready to be taken by whichever teams wants it the most.
Very rarely does it ever come down to this.
More often than not - at least in races this close - teams must rely on others to get the job done. There is after all a reason why tight races involve two evenly matched teams. And so regardless if you take care of your own business, you must still hope that the other teams aid you with hurdles. But this year, the Eastern Conference's 8th seed will most likely be determined with a do-or-die game between the very two teams trying to outrace each other.
No one else will be involved. There can be no excuses. You either win and enjoy the result, or lose and deal with the consequence.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will very well be interested in the outcome of this game, but this isn't about them right now. This is about two teams wanting to make it to the playoffs; where anything can happen. Sure, you have the typical fan or two who actually prefer missing out on the post-season. But it's these same people who most likely have never been in a scenario like this before. If you've played any kind of team sport during your school years, you know that the playoffs and the championship are the only goal one should have in mind. It doesn't matter how unrealistic your chances are, all that does matter is that you get to that "2nd season". Because you don't put in all that work only to finish early. That's never the point. You don't work hard all year to only be told you're not good enough to continue.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you honestly throw away another year of your career just so that some random college player can be added to your roster with the 12th pick?
Tell Jarrett Jack that - who has never been to the playoffs before. Earlier this season, he and his mother could not contain their excitement at the mere thought of it.
Tell DeMar DeRozan that - who coped with the fact that he wasn't asked to play in the rookie/sophomore game by leaning on the possibility that he would be playing in the playoffs and his peers would not.
Tell Hedo Turkoglu that - who though has been more than disappointing this year, was in the NBA Finals last year. Even he would not be fine with the possibility of not playing in April like he's accustomed to.
And finally, tell Chris Bosh that - who has his entire future and legacy as a Raptor on the line.
Believe it or not, but the Toronto Raptors want to be in the playoffs. Despite what you may see on TV, or hear on the radio, these players want nothing more than to beat the Chicago Bulls and secure the 8th seed. And after tonight's game that will without a doubt have a preview of what playoff basketball is like at the ACC, you'll feel the same as well.