Wizards 104, Raptors 109

I was already thinking of all the possible Maple Leaf Saturday Night Hockey references as this game started slipping away from the Raps in the 4th.

The Raps did their best Leaf impersonation tonight, the only thing missing was Don Cherry ripping how the Raps are “too European, with whatshisface Andre Barfnani and that Turkeyglue, playing with a visor and all that, eh”

Thank you Jay Triano for finally putting Jarret Jack back into the game with 6 minutes to go. It’s pretty amazing how JJ managed to get right into the game after sitting for more 10 minutes of game time, sandwiched around a full timeout and an intermission. It was probably too little, too late, but instead it was one of the finest displays of clutch play that we’ve probably seen in quite some time. Since Vince left us, and if you don’t want to count Mike James, which would be virtually everyone except Mike James himself, we really haven’t seen a guard step up in the 4th the way he Jarret did tonight. He’s gone from a borderline starting guard on a bad team to a clear starter on a good team within a year’s time. For 4.5 mil. Bye bye Jose.

Well of course Jose’s a good point guard, but if the first half of the 4th quarter served any notice, it’s that you cannot rely on the man to kickstart an offence. Without Chris Bosh to dump it into, the offence became stagnant AND ineffective. Maybe you give the ball up to Turk and see what he can do, but that only happens either very early in the game or very late in the game for some reason that I fail to see.

I hope I don’t get burned at the stake for saying this, but this is a fun team to watch without Chris Bosh in the lineup. It’s more of a team game, and you’re saved from watching the highly effective yet mundane CB4 iso from 15 feet out. I’m sure this feeling wouldn’t last very long, when better teams started kicking our ass without our MVP in the lineup, but it’s nice to see almost everyone else on the team taking on added responsibility. Especially Rasho Nesterovic.

We’re still continuing that bittersweet trend of clamping down hard on defence in the 4th. It’s bittersweet because, obviously we should be able to stay at the level for the first 3 quarters. Like Antoine Wright. Turkoglu drawing 2 early fouls was such a blessing in disguise, because it allowed Triano to do what he was probably was itching to do, but lacked the nads to: Put a muzzle on Josh Howard as soon as possible. Howard was tearing it up early in the game, and Hedo wasn’t ready for it. Methinks Howard is a tad motivated for being traded off of a playoff team. Once Antoine came in, he played great man defence. He’s not a prototypical defender with great lateral quickness and hops that most do. It’s the way he angles players to their weak hand and the effort and pride he takes in not letting his man get by him. The absolute cherry on top for a guy who was practically a throw-in in the Marion trade is that his offence is not even a liability any more. It’s actually helped us. The corner 3′s that he’s hitting at a very good rate, and even those clumsy-looking drives are starting to actually result in makes and free throw attempts. He’ll be logging major minutes in the playoffs, and we’ll be a better team for it.

Jack wasn’t the only one who came up big in the 4th. Hedo connected on a couple of drives, although he did take a horrible pull-up three late in the game, but we’ll let it slip. Andrea Bargnani was a force, with big rejections, even a couple of weakside ones, yes I said weakside defensive plays. He was a gamechanger defensively. We’ve seen flashes, and flashes are great because they can turn into stretches, which can turn into consistent play. It’s just something that’s hard to fathom, but it’s true with this guy. It’s coming slowly, in stages, first with the offence and then the man-defence and perhaps now with the overall defence and even some rebounding. Was it because he felt the need to do a little more without Chris in there at the end? I don’t know what’s going on in his head, but that’s the point, it’s all mental with him.

The Raptors did give up a lot of offensive rebounds, and this is where we felt the absence of CB4 the most tonight. We’re not always going to shoot 54% from 3-land with 14 more FT attempts to make up for 18 more shot attempts (91 – 73) like the Wiz had tonight. This really long stretch of winnable games has turned the Raptors into an uber-confident team that feels like it can always pull out victories down the stretch. Sure, this is what good teams definitely can do, but I hope they aren’t in for a rude awakening when a better team takes a 10 point lead to the halfway mark of the 4th and then goes for the jugular, and our knight in shining armor can’t ride in and save the day.