Head coach Jay Triano chose not to alter his starting five last night and was rewarded with a 20-5 lead eight minutes into the game. That lead lasted until the fourth quarter when the Wizards started to pull way. They got a lead as big as seven at one point but the Raptors wouldn't let them get too far ahead.
"The entire game I thought we were all in tune," Jack said of a defensive effort that included a season-low 17 first-quarter points by an opponent. "Any time there was a breakdown or any situation where we needed help, I thought we were there to cover for each other. That's how you play basketball. Today we established what Toronto Raptors basketball is and should be. We need to take it from here and build on it (today) in Chicago."
Accountability was also a major part of the conversation.
"I think that if we are going to be successful, everyone has to be accountable," Triano said. "I wouldn't say it was missing. I just don't know if it was communicated properly. I think it comes down to we have nine new guys and basically guys are still trying to figure out who is who, how to talk to somebody, what buttons to push for some people and that goes coaches to players and players to coaches."
Triano said it was a coaches meeting called by him with him asking questions of players he needed answers from. Neither Bosh nor Hedo Turkoglu spoke during the meeting.
Reggie Evans stayed behind in Toronto for this trip and had another evaluation by the Raptors team doctors on Thursday. "He had a hard cast removed and hopefully he can start some on-court stuff in the next couple of weeks," Triano said.
Amir Johnson provided vital help defence on Arenas in the game's biggest moment. Said Johnson: "I fooled (Arenas). … He came up with his knee, ready to draw the contact, and at the last moment, I just moved away, and he overthrew the layup. He was looking for the foul, and even if I blocked his shot, they would have probably called a foul. So I came with my hands up and I dodged him. I faked him out."
Said Arenas, "He outthought me.''
If the post-game atmosphere was unusually festive – Bryan Colangelo, the GM, cracked a beer while the athletes gorged on pizza and chicken wings – perhaps it's because the day began with the Raptors holding an hour-long team meeting to address a list of issues. One of the topics: An apparent failure to communicate between players from the United States and their cohorts from Europe.
The Raptors were not helped by Andrea Bargnani, the lone starter to not show much in the wake of the meeting. The under-siege centre shot six for 20 from the field, looking out of sync all evening.
Repeating their effort from Wednesday night's loss to the Atlanta Hawks would have been the worst possible course of action for the most of the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan, though, had perhaps his best game as a professional in Atlanta, scoring 21 points. It would be easy to ascribe that performance to garbage-time buckets, but DeRozan was scoring and doing the right thing — looking to get into the paint — even before the Hawks made a mockery of the game.
Hedo Turkoglu hits a jumper with 8.1 seconds left in overtime to give Toronto a 109-107 victory over Washington
Below is a transcript of excerpts from my pre-game interview with Pops Mensah-Bonsu of the Toronto Raptors, also a GW alum and Colonial Basketball standout (2002-2006):
A closed-door meeting followed Friday morning, and that night it appeared to pay off. Chris Bosh, who had scored two points against the Hawks, had 31 points and 16 rebounds and Toronto knocked off Washington 109-107 in overtime.
"No matter what happened today, we have to be satisfied how we stuck together," said Bosh, who's averaged 26.7 points and 15.0 rebounds in the Raptors' last three wins over the Bulls. "The bench was into it. Everybody was into it. We have to do that for the rest of the season if we want to be successful."
Coach Jay Triano has been drawing criticism as of late for his reluctance to criticize players for their deficiencies on the defensive end. Triano has a brilliant mind for the game of basketball and has an international track record that cannot be argued with but his seat is getting warmer by the second. Being a successful head coach in this league is extremely difficult and it's quite possible that Triano is best suited for an assistant role that requires him mainly to focus on offense, his strength. The options for Toronto are limited right now after an offseason in which they splurged financially. A coaching change will be signed off on long before a trade of Hedo Turkoglue or Chris Bosh and right now there's a very capable head coach in Byron Scott on the market. Scott could be Toronto's best shot at salvaging the season and their chances at retaining Bosh.
Anyway, Turk’s big shot saved the Raps from a near choke in OT — they led by five with the ball with just over a minute to go before a couple blown possessions and a Gilbert Arenas three evened it up. Arenas also had a shot to tie at the buzzer, but had a layup in traffic glance off the rim. In the end, Agent Zero finished with a game-high 34, though I’ll take Chris Bosh’s 31 and 16 boards and a win on this night. Credit to CB for keeping the boys together when this one looked like it was slipping away in the fourth, and I guess thanks to Antoine Wright for not playing overly horrible to cost us the game. A true leader, that Wright is.
THE FAN brings you highlights (1) and the game recap (2) of a 109-107 Raptors' overtime victory over the Wizards, courtesy Paul Jones & Eric Smith
Speaking of Bosh…wow, where do you start? I haven't seen Chris Bosh play like that in ages.
34 points 16 rebounds – 9 of those offensive (!!!!) 4 assists and 2 blocks
No matter how much you may dislike the guy, he couldn't do anything wrong last night. He kept driving it hard to the rim in the tension filled fourth quarter, and got some ridiculous and one's throughout the night. The one where it looked like he may have travelled, but then just glided to the left of the rim and swiped the ball in was breathtaking. And the one play that keeps replaying in my mind where he took on the whole Wizards front line it seemed underneath the basket, and kept trying to put it in, and got his own rebound about 3 straight times. Just monstrous.
When we brought Turk to Toronto, one of the biggest reasons was to give us someone who could get us clutch buckets late in the shot clock at crucial points in the game. Until tonight, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s been seriously underwhelming in that regard. A couple of huge shots in the 5th tonight though definitely start him down a path to redeeming himself. After an Arenas 3 with 30 seconds left erased what was once a convincing 5 point OT lead and a botched play left us with 4 seconds on the shot clock and the ball out of bounds, Triano drew up a play for his best late game shooter. Turk responded with a huge fading J on the baseline that eventually proved to be the winner.
"The more quiet you are," said Bosh, "sometimes things get divided."
Not everybody in the room sees it the same way. Jack, a product of Maryland, pointed out that he has a fine relationship with Marco Belinelli, the Italian guard. It helps that they share the same agent.
"I say some things in Italian now that I didn't know before. My number 1 thing for him, because he's got, like, 8 per cent or 9 per cent body fat, so I call him ciccione – it means fatboy, in Italian. (Bargnani) taught me (to say) hoodie, that's a capuccio. I'm getting there."
Jack is getting there, the steps are small, and the Raptors can hope the remaining 61 games bind them tighter. But losing is rarely a recipe for great chemistry. So Friday's victory might have been as good for intra-squad relationships as a dozen team meetings. "Tonight we established what Toronto Raptors basketball is, and what it should be," said Jack.
"That was a typical regular season game of non-playoff teams," Coach Flip Saunders said afterward, offering his most scathing criticism of his team this season. "I'm more disappointed in this game than any game we've had. Just because you're about to get that next step and that next step usually means being more disciplined. Not being complacent, not be satisfied. We started the game like it was going to be one of those games."
Lastly, about that last shot. Gilbert Arenas vs. Jarrett Jack. Jack won. "I just tried to out think him, but he out thought me," said Arenas.
What about all that dunking Arenas was doing all summer?
"I don’t know," said Arenas. "I just don’t think about dunking no more. I just figured, we’re down two, I beat my guy to the basket, and I’m thinking he’s going to jump to try and block the shot so I try to beat him to the punch jump in to him, let his weight push me back to the rim and get the and-one."
Arenas agreed with Saunders that this was the Wizards' most disappointing loss of the season: "Yeah, because we had more mental breakdowns. We just couldn’t get a stop when wanted to. We cheated too much on this team, and they made us pay."
However, the Raptors had momentum on their side going into overtime. Losers of five games in a row in which they played little defense — the string of losses included giving up 146 points against Atlanta — the Raptors needed to upend the Wizards, a team that was trying to win for the fifth time in the last six games.
"We have a tendency to hang our heads," Triano said. "But once they had that lead we didn't hang our heads. Guys seemed very positive and energized. It was like they felt we were going to win the game. I don't think anyone is happy with where we are, but I think these guys have started to realize that you have to do the little things. Tonight we did them and it worked."
"Turkish Jordan," Butler said with a grin, referring to Turkoglu's nickname when he came into the league nine seasons ago. "It was a tough shot. I tried to make him take a difficult shot, and that's exactly what happened. … That's all you can try to do, and have an opportunity down the stretch with your franchise guy driving to the basket and having a great look. That's how the ball rolls sometimes."
The Wizards got what they wanted exiting the final timeout. Arenas had the ball in his hands again – only he couldn't quite deliver. He blew past Toronto's Jarrett Jack but missed a baseline layup, and Andray Blatche's tip-in attempt was off the mark as the horn sounded, leaving Verizon Center silent.
Arenas DID think about going for the win instead of the tie, however.
"I thought about it," he said. "I thought about but I figured that’s what he was expecting. And that’s how I got so wide open because he pushed up on me, thinking I was going for the three and I went in and blew the layup."
Basketball gods again, ya think?
Check out the Raptors vs. Wizards, all in just six minutes!
Head coach Jay Triano addresses the media following the Raptors overtime win on Friday in Washington.
Hedu Turkoglu talks to the media following the Raptors overtime win in Washington.
"We felt it on the court," Turkoglu said. "We tuned into it — especially on defense. Hopefully, it wasn't for the one game. We keep it up for the whole year."
Let’s hear it for the kid, and lets enjoy the silence of everyone who said they should take him out of the starting lineup. DeRozan was great tonight. 14 points in the first half, 16 points overall, with limited minutes in the second half. His progress is an important one for this Raptor team. Let’s face it, we’re not going to win the title this year, so his growth should be seen as a high priority. And he’ll grow the most in that starting 2 spot.
For now … let me just say quickly on the BlackBerry … that this was a HUGE win for Toronto.
Yes, the Raps coughed-up a 15-point 1st QRT lead … and … yes … Hedo Turkoglu saw his 3-pointer rim out at the end of regulation. But Toronto stayed after it and rode a monster performance from Chris Bosh to a 109-107 win. Turkoglu won it with :8.1 seconds to go on the Fat Joe, “Lean Back” special.
Turkoglu finished with 20 points … Bosh had 31 points and 16 rebounds.