A year later, the Raptors are going to have to ask themselves a familiar question: Play-In Tourney for what? – The Athletic

It was just last year when Masai Ujiri, upon being asked why the Raptors seemed to be resting a lot of players indiscriminately down the stretch of a wayward season in Tampa, Fla., coined the phrase “Play-In for what?” The Raptors were not about to go all-in on winning late-season games to try to qualify for the back half of the Play-In Tournament, the league’s new mechanism that allows four teams to fight for the final two playoff spots in each conference.

The Raptors’ decision was more or less made for them last year. When three-fifths of the starting lineup went into COVID-19 health and safety protocols, then needed plenty of time to get back to full conditioning after a long absence, any real run at a Play-In spot would have been for the 10th position — if that.

Things are a lot more complicated this season. The Raptors have split their first 44 games after an embarrassing first half resulted in a 114-105 loss to the Blazers on Sunday in a return to an empty Scotiabank Arena. There is still time for things to change, but it appears likely there will be six teams fighting for four Play-In spots this season. For now, it appears Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland are a cut above the rest of the conference.

After that, there are six teams ranging between 26-21 and 21-25: Charlotte, Boston, Toronto, Washington, New York and Atlanta. That is 4 1/2 games separating seventh, the top seed in the Play-In tournament, and 12th, two spots out of any postseason competition. The Hornets, Wizards and