"I caught him early before the game," Wright said of Kings rookie sensation. "He looked a little tired. A little sleepy. It's hard to play in these 12 p.m. games."
As for Wright himself?
"Nah, I'm going to celebrate Sunday. I've got experience with 12 p.m. games. I know what to expect."
Not only did Wright do a job on Evans in the latter stages of the game, he contributed in a big way offensively with 10 of his own 18 points coming in the fourth quarter.
He and the rest of the Raptors, meanwhile, held Evans, who is averaging 20.5 points a game to two points and five assists in the entire second half and 11 points altogether.
The Raptors returned three injured players to the lineup in Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan but lost another. Marco Belinelli was on the inactive list with a sprained ankle. Chances are coach Jay Triano could have a full complement of players for the first time this season on Wednesday against the Sixers when Reggie Evans could be in uniform for the first time this season.
To hear head coach Jay Triano tell it, it's a good thing for everyone on the team that Turkoglu did.
Asked following Sunday's 115-104 win over Sacramento what he felt had helped the team turn the corner, Triano said a big part of it was the masked man himself.
"A lot of it has to do with Turk," Triano said. "He is the guy who wasn't here before. It may not show up in the stats, but the kicks and the movement of the basketball, where the ball goes and the fact he is a threat on the three-point line, we want the ball in his hands. He makes plays for other people. Antoine (Wright) makes a shot and Jose (Calderon) gave it to him, but Turk started the whole thing with drives."
The good news is Turkoglu has now proven to himself that he can still do all that, even with a cumbersome addition to his face.
Kings coach Paul Westphal hit the nail on the head.
“We blinked,” he said. “We missed, they didn’t.”
It’s a scenario that is playing out late in games more and more frequently where these Raptors are concerned, Sunday’s 115-104 win over the Sacramento Kings was just the latest.
For the better part of three quarters, the Raptors do enough good things and just enough bad things to keep a game close. But with the game on the line, these Raptors find a way to close things out and that more than any reason is why they have won nine of their past 12 and are openly talking about a playoff push and even home court advantage for the early going.
"It's just confidence, just believing in ourselves that we can stop teams," said point guard Jose Calderon, who came back from missing Wednesday's game with an ankle injury to play the entire fourth quarter. "When you get stops on the defensive end … it's easier to make the next shot. We're comfortable with each other and it's confidence in our defence."
It certainly doesn't hurt that when the Raptors play good defence that they can run their offence through Chris Bosh, who had another brilliant day with 36 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
"(Sunday) he was unbelievable," Calderon said of Bosh. "He only missed four shots or something like that. He was great from the beginning and it's great when we have it like this; he's been like that almost the whole season
"It's great to see him happy and playing the best basketball ever, I think. He gets everybody in the game he gives us energy, he gives us the right play in the right moment."
The win was another example of Toronto's ability to close out games with near flawless precision, a trait that by and large was absent during the early portion of the NBA season when the team was struggling.
“I think we believe, this is a group that believes,” Toronto coach Jay Triano said about the Raptors' late-game confidence. “Throughout the game sometimes you might wonder, but down the stretch I just think there's a real comfort level and we're able to close out.”
With the victory, the Raptors (28-23) won for the seventh time in their past eight games. They are 13-1 at the ACC since Dec. 13 and show no signs of letting up.
The reviews for the mask are in.
"That [thing] is terrible," Sonny Weems said.
"I'd give it a two [out of 10]. I think he should scrap it," Antoine Wright added. "It's horrible. I'm on his side. He's really not that good-looking of a dude anyway. The mask doesn't help him at all."
When asked what he thought of the look, even coach Jay Triano could not give a straight answer.
"Ball," Triano said, mocking Turkoglu's famous one-word response to a question of a few weeks ago while deflecting the need to actually answer this particular question honestly.
With each answer came a smile (if not a dismissive shake of the head at the mask's stylistic merit). That should not come as a surprise, though: These are the good-time Raptors.
The main problem with Calderon is that defensively he tends to get exposed to either faster and/or bigger starting point guards in the league and we saw this earlier in the year when Toronto was one of the worst teams in the league defensively. Of course, it wasn't all Calderon's fault…but he was a part of the defensive problem. He is less defensively exposed coming off the bench in shorter stints and/or against second tier point guards…Which is not to say that when Calderon has his full arsenal of tricks working and the momentum is decidedly in the Raptors favor, that he shouldn't be left out there for the full follow-through of his surge of momentum which he is doing very well these days with guys like Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, and Belinelli coming off the bench.
"I am handling the ball more and making plays," said Turkoglu, "mostly in the fourth quarter, like I did in Orlando. With Chris (Bosh), we pick-and-roll, and he can pop out and hit the jumper.
"People were saying that my wife (Banu) didn't want to live in Portland, but it was about basketball. I thought I would fit better with this roster. We would have stayed in Orlando, but they didn't guarantee a fifth year, and Portland and Toronto did. That was a big (factor), too."
Relaxing in a chair in the near-empty gym, Hedo really hasn't changed much. He still looks like he just fell out of bed, couldn't find his hairbrush and didn't have time for coffee. frowns when asked about his unflattering perception in Portland, his deep-set eyes are playful, teasing, inquisitive.
"I'm not the young player I was with the Kings," he reminded, grinning. "I'm 31 (on March 19). Everything hurts. Hips. Knees. I'm feeling better though, and I feel lucky. Toronto is going to be a good place for me."
"This is one of the more ridiculous pieces of scheduling," coach Paul Westphal said Sunday before the Kings dropped a 115-104 game at Air Canada Centre. "I don't know if anybody's done this before. They don't have to send someone from the West. Send Detroit!"
The scheduling was more than a bit odd. As if the Kings needed additional help stacking defeats in bunches, the turnaround time following their flight was brutal. They arrived in Toronto at 7 p.m. Saturday and awakened around 8 a.m. Sunday. They ate breakfast and bused to the arena around 10 before encountering the Raptors and old friend Hedo Turkoglu.
THE FAN presents highlights (clip #1 courtesy Paul Jones) and the recap (clip #2 courtesy Eric Smith) of a 115-104 Raptors victory over the Kings.
Obviously there are some differing opinions on how Colangelo has done so far during his tenure of the Raptors. Anyone who hasn’t read my Colangelo retrospective, might want to look through it if you’ve got (a lot of) time.
Firstly, let’s get this out of the way. I’m very happy that Colangelo is going to get his contract extended, although not really surprised. The four year period that Colangelo has been in charge of the franchise is the most successful four year period in it’s history. Okay. Faint praise for a team that has seen little on-court success, but it’s not nothing.
Keep in mind, I liked the hiring of Colangelo, but was well aware of the fact that, despite his success, he’s never built a team that has reached the Finals. The Phoenix Suns were a great team, but defense was not their strong suit, and teams that don’t play great defense don’t tend to win Championships.
In the past, I've talked about (and tried to quantify) how rare of a season Chris Bosh is having. A few people chuckled when I wrote some of the things I wrote because they said there was no way Bosh could keep up his level of production.
They were wrong. Bosh has been amazingly consistent all season, and he's even slightly improved his performance of late. But back to the "rare" comment, consider:
Since the turn of the decade, only four players have averaged at least 24 points and 11 rebounds in a season:
It’s not like the Celtics are the dregs of the NBA. They’ve won 32 games, but after their despicable 96-89 Garden loss to Orlando Sunday afternoon, they’re only fourth in the conference and the Toronto Raptors are starting to see green tail lights in the Atlantic Division race.
To the game now which I have to admit was entertaining but I am sure fans woulda blown a gasket if they had let it slip away cause we as Toronto fans are quite demanding as fans should be. I guess that is a good characteristic to have though, winning games regardless of how you manage to do it. The game in a nutshell for Sacramento was this high screen and roll they kept running from the top of the key. They ran that play so many times I lost count and I didn't understand why the Raps couldn't figure it out. Just have the man coming off the screen close out on the shooter faster and get right in his face. I guess it's easier for me to sit in the stands with 20/20 hindsight. Add in some nice perimeter shooting from Greene and Kevin Martin and that was pretty much their game. The Raps used their usual game plan dumping the ball down to Bosh every chance they got and swung the ball off high pick and rolls to look for an open man.
Hedo Turkoglu speaks with the media following the Raptors' home win over the Kings.
Chris Bosh speaks with the media following his huge 36-points, 11-rebound performance against the Kings at ACC.
Andrea Bargnani talks to the media following the Raptors win over the Kings on Sunday.
Jose Calderon talks to the media following the Raptors win over the Sacramento Kings.
Jay Triano talks to the media following the Raptors home win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
Check out the game between the Raptors and Kings all in just six minutes!
"We had a lead in the fourth quarter and couldn't hold it," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We missed a lot of free throws; we couldn't control Bosh.
"We couldn't finish the deal and it's primarily because we couldn't get the stops we needed. It was about 42 or 44 minutes of really good basketball for us. The four to six minutes that wasn't gives us a loss."
A zippy first quarter seemed to be going Toronto's way, as the Raptors were up nine points near the end of the opening 12 minutes, but the Kings decided that despite their record they were going to give the Raps a game.
Martin led the way back, finishing the opening half with 12 points and three boards, and Tyreke Evans added nine as Sacramento had this one tied at 59 in the final seconds.
The Kings had 26 fast break points during their comeback and were helped along by six Toronto turnovers in the half.
But Turkoglu drew a foul with seconds left and he hit the front end and bounced the back end off the rim where Bosh met the ball and pounded it in for a 62-59 Toronto lead at halftime.
“I said this season coming in I wanted to be the best forward in the league and I was going to have to be consistent and try to play every game,” said Bosh, who helped Toronto to its seventh straight win in front of 18,007 fans. “So far it’s been pretty good. I just want to stay consistent.”
What Bosh has been is consistently excellent. He’s averaging career highs in points (24.4 per game) and rebounds (11.5 per game) and he’s beating teams every which way.
Sunday, the Kings dared play him with single coverage and he ended up making 14 of 18 field goal attempts and getting to the line for 11 free throw attempts.
3 – The Raptors ran just about everything through Bosh, and with the way the Kings defended him, it was a smart move. Greene, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson all took turns trying to keep the star away from the basket. But their efforts were futile. Most of the time, the Kings defenders displayed poor positioning, allowing Bosh to attack the rim at will. When double-teams were employed, Bosh found his teammates, and Andrea Bargnani (9-15 FG) and Antoine Wright (6-7 FG) made the Kings pay.