What's important in the long run is Bargnani's continued emergence as a reliable and polished presence. Good teams in this league always have a stud. But having that second go-to guy makes plenty of difference. Think of the Raptor teams back in the days they were good; there was Carter, as compelling as anyone, and behind him some nights there was Antonio Davis or Doug Christie, who happened to be in the house Wednesday night on another Huskies throwback evening. Those guys had their moments, but were they constant 20-point threats, as Bargnani seems to be evolving into? Not quite.
The past couple of seasons, as Bargnani's career flat-lined, finding a second weapon behind Bosh was vital and Bryan Colangelo spent all that money on Hedo Turkoglu, who has turned into mostly an empty suit. Thankfully the light went on for Bargnani, whose personality has emerged along with his stats. He seems more at home both on and off the court and it shows.
“It was part of our strategy coming in, to get him the basketball,” said coach Jay Triano after Toronto ran its record to 24-22. “We knew that Jermaine (O'Neal) was going to be on (Chris Bosh) and that they were going to lean on him and (Bargnani) was going to have the opportunity to duck in and make shots.”
Bargnani and Bosh were a practically unstoppable duo, especially after the Heat lost Michael Beasley to a hyper-extended right knee for the second half. Bosh finished with 24 points and a season-high 18 rebounds.
“That's bogus,” an incredulous Weems said Wednesday morning. “That's bogus … that's bogus right there. That's bogus.”
“He takes some crazy ones, but they go in,” said Jack. “That’s just a testament to him being a terrific, terrific shooter and having a great confidence in himself.
“Marco’s a gunslinger.”
Given the steady hand and straight-up style employed in Old West gunfights, the frantic spinning of a tail gunner might be a more apt comparison for the native of Italy’s northern Bologna province.
Or to leave firearm-themed frames of reference behind, if Boston’s Ray Allen is to classic shooters what Belinelli’s countryman Michelangelo is to fine art, Belinelli is the Spaniard Pablo Picasso at his surrealistic best: all jagged lines and shapes joined together in a fantastic collision.
Well, Wednesday night’s game against the Miami Heat was not just another one for the Toronto Raptors.
They said so themselves.
“They’re percentage points ahead of us in the standings and we can reverse that today,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said before the game. “The reality of this game is a little bit more important than the Lakers because it’s a conference rival and I hope I don’t have to say anything more than that.”
In terms of sheer joyousness, it is quite possible nothing will top the win over Los Angeles on Sunday. But the Raptors got their “important” game, too, using a controlled second-half effort to beat the Heat 111-103 at Air Canada Centre.
Well, if the Raptors totally crumble and return to their earlier ways then it’s all for not. Having said that, in a town where our hockey team is so bad that Brady and Watters debated why people would even go to a home game, at the very least the Raptors are still playing meaningful games. Does that mean a whole lot? NO. Does it mean that I may actually follow their games- YES. We citizens of Loserville only want a team that we can actually watch around the midpoint of the season. Our iced prodcut hasn’t really been to that level in years. Their hardwood brothers are there right now.
“Last night, the Air Canada Centre was rocking again as an energized crowd of 18,265 came out to see the Raptors duel Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, three days after the home team defeated Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in front of one of the biggest crowds in franchise history. ”
The Raptors held the Heat to 44.4-per-cent shooting while knocking down 56.8 per cent of their own shots.
But perhaps most encouraging was that going into the game, no one was trying to pretend it wasn't a significant contest with implications for the standings, and, because Toronto and Miami had split the season series so far, implications for playoff seedings down the stretch.
“We know what's at stake,” Bosh said. “We've climbed all the way up to where we are in the standings and we don't want to just let it go because it's easier to lose than to win. It's a tough mountain to climb but have a bunch of games left and we have to keep pursuing success.”
Toronto moved into fifth in the East with the win, passing the Heat, and won the season series as well, the first tiebreaker in the NBA's playoff process.
What did we learn from the Tracy McGrady situation??
We learned that if a key player does not extend in season, he is not going to say and is looking at greener pastures south of the border. T-Mac fled to the state of Florida and by most accounts, Chris Bosh will become a Florida resident as well.
Now this is not an axiom; but this is what we Raptor fans have learned in relation to our franchise. Bosh wants FA so bad he is exercising his Early Termination Option.
With these memories in mind and with the trade deadline coming closer, BC has to seriously reconsider his sign-and-trade stance. Bosh does not need us for a sign-and-trade for any team besides the Lakers. Larger pay increases and an extra year might not mean as much if Bosh wishes to get one more max contract out of his playing career anyways. Also, giving up the pay increase will help his teams salary cap picture and thus, hopefully their competitiveness.
DeRozan said he was “more confused than angry” about not being selected but he did use his Twitter account to share his initial feelings when he found it. DeRozan sent out the three-letter tweet “Wow” and left it at that.
“I've learned from other players, just keep it short and sweet,” he said.
DeRozan said he will certainly be using this as motivation for the rest of the year.
“I don't get too frustrated because I've got an entire second half of the season to go,” DeRozan said. “It's just a chance for me to show them that I should have got a mention here.”
THE FAN presents all of the highlights (1) and Eric Smith's game recap (2) from Wednesday's 111-103 Raptors win, in which Toronto overtook fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
The retired NBAer joins Eric & Paul prior to Wednesday night's Raptors-Heat game to discuss what he's been up to, the athlete training that he does, and his favourite memories of playing in Toronto.
Bargnani had 19 field-goal attempts but only four three-pointers, scoring the majority of his team-high 27 points on array of low-post jump hooks, mid-range jumpers off one or two dribbles and a move to middle of the lane that’s become one of his trademarks.
“It was part of our strategy coming in, to get him the basketball,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano after Toronto ran its record to 24-22. “We knew that Jermaine (O’Neal) was going to be on (Chris Bosh) and that they were going to lean on him and (Bargnani) was going to have the opportunity to duck in and make shots.”
Bargnani and Bosh were a practically unstoppable duo, especially after the Heat lost Michael Beasley to a hyper-extended right knee for the second half. Bosh finished with 24 points and a season-high 18 rebounds to complement Bargnani’s night.
Bosh's Raptors have underachieved, but he's made GMs around the league salivate over his impending free agency with career-bests (23.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, .525 FGP) across the board. Coaches could move him to center in their ballots to make room for forwards Wallace and Josh Smith, but I don't see enough doing that.
Sonny Weems speaks with the Raptors TV panel following the Raptors win over the Miami Heat
Sixty-point first halves by their opponents have not been the norm since the Raptors season turned around six weeks ago, but that was about all that was out of the ordinary Wednesday night.
The Raps withstood a furious first-half from Dwyane Wade that led to one of those high-scoring first halves reminiscent of the first 90 days of the season, and then put on their own offensive showcase in the second to pull away for a 111-103 win.
It all started with a defensive stand in that third quarter when the Raps held the Heat to just 21 points to open up a four-point lead of their own.
Offensively, Andrea Bargnani held the hot hand for the Raptors finishing the night with 27 points which was one point off his season high.
” I tried to shoot the gap,” Weems explained to the media after the game. “He’s a lot stronger going to his right – he can split the bigs and do a lot of stuff creative wise – and to the left he’s not as aggressive. When he goes to the left he settles for a lot of pullups or he dishes to his teammates. I tried to shoot the gap and try to make him go left.”
Not bad for a young player in the first start of his NBA career.
According to the veteran voice of the Raptors, Jarrett Jack, his evolution into a strong defender is something that will come with more playing time.
“All of us go through a transition point with experience,” Jack explained to Hoops Addict. “Learning how to guard certain guys only comes with game time experience and being able to mature as a player. I think Sonny (Weems) is doing a great job on the fly. He hasn’t had the amount of reps against these big-time players but tonight he did a really good job.”
Hedo The Good, and the Bad.
Say what you want about Hedo Turkoglu (and we’ve said a lot here) the team is winning with him in the lineup. We’ve read a lot, and we’ve heard a lot, about his role as a vacillator and it couldn’t be more true. The ball moves when he’s on the court. He always makes the right decision (usually a pass) and he’s a team leader. So yes, while he continues to shoot some 25% over the last ten games, his overall effectiveness has been good. At the very least he recognizes his shooting woes and chooses to only put up 5 shots. Something you rarely see in the NBA.
Chris Bosh didn’t bother trying to match Wade’s offensive spectacle. He banged his way for 24 points but, more importantly, pulled down a season-high 18 rebounds and dished four assists.
Yet when Toronto did falter ever-so slightly down the stretch, Bosh helped anchor the defence and force Miami into a late shot clock situation it missed on, battled for an offensive rebound at the other end, and knocked down an essential jump shot to put Toronto up 100-91 with less than five minutes left.
“Michael being out certainly, probably affected our rotation, but there's no excuse,'' Spoelstra said of Beasley, who hyper-extended his right knee in the first quarter and was to be re-evaluated in Detroit, where the Heat plays the Pistons on Friday. “They just played better in the second half. We could not seem to get enough stops in a row to give ourselves a real chance.''
Dwyane Wade had 35 points, but missed four of six shots in the fourth quarter. With Beasley sidelined for the entire second half, Wade didn't have the luxury of getting any rest. He played all 24 minutes without a break to help keep the Heat close.
But Wade didn't get enough help at the finish. Miami had only four field goals over the final eight minutes.
“Coach did a good job of making adjustments.” Antoine Wright said. “When you're giving a player like that space he pretty much can pick and choose what he wants so we tried to press up a little bit and force him to his right hand. Ultimately it got us to getting the ball out of his hands. Other guys made shots early, but they didn't make them late.”
While Wade finished with 35 points, he scored just four in the fourth. Jermaine O'Neal added 22 points and Udonis Haslem scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds off of the bench, but it wasn't enough for the Heat.
“They did what they were supposed to,” Wade said of the defense he faced down the stretch. “They doubled me off of the ball so I just passed to my teammates.”
Knicks were routed by the Raptors two weeks ago, yielding 67 first-half points by playing passive and indifferent defence, which is the New York way. This looms as a revenge opportunity, assuming New York has any pride.
- David Lee played the entire game and came within one assist of recording a triple-double when Raptors last visited MSG. He'll know by tip time whether he has been selected as an all-star reserve. He'll be matched up against Chris Bosh, who is a shoo-in for the all-star team.
Chad Ochocinco started it.
Dwight Howard, Jared Allen and Terrell Owens will soon follow suit.
The iPhone application continues to cometh for the athlete.
Back in October, I wrote about the Cincinnati Bengals receiver's foray into the iPhone app world. He claimed to be the first athlete with such technology branded after him, but that wasn't quite true: Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh already had his own, and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez also had one before Ochocinco's launched, though it's no longer available.
I talked with Peter Lee who is one of the people that is the founders of the website WhotheMan.com. We talk about what the site is and the contest that they are putting on. You can win Tickets to a Raps game, a signed copy of Chris Bosh's DVD “First Ink” as well as some other things. You can do it all based on being a knowledgeable Raptors fan and not having a case of being camera shy. Many of you are familiar with the T.V show Pros vs Joes on Spike T.V. This for lack of a better term is the sports fan equivalent. I am one of 8 pros that they have selected that will battle it out and on the other side of the bracket could be you. 8 fans will battle as well and at the end you will have 1 pro and 1 fan left standing to do battle.
With just one playoff series victory in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors have hardly had a storied life in the National Basketball Association. But in the 15 years the Raptors have been taking to the court, there have been top rookies, perennial all-stars, rebuilding years and acrimonious breakups. Michael Grange and Mason Wright present some of the more memorable moments.
The most active speculation is that Bosh will leave Toronto and perhaps sign with Miami, which has only $24 million committed in salary for next season, and so the Raptors must decide if they want to risk keeping him and losing him for nothing. If the Raptors get an indication he is not going to re-sign, it would behoove them to trade him now and extract as much in return as they can, because even if they do a sign-and-trade with him this summer, they will not get nearly what they would as the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches. Adding another element of intrigue is that the Raptors have started to win more regularly and are now in the thick of the playoff race in the weak Eastern Conference. Had they remained well below .500, it would have been easier for GM Bryan Colangelo to trade Bosh. But now that they have a legitimate chance to make some noise in the postseason, it’ll be more difficult for Colangelo to get rid of the team’s best player.
- Raptors Roll Call Jan 27 vs Heat
- Raptors Beat the Heat, Again 111-103