On a night when little was expected of the Raptors, they delivered a virtuoso performance.
Unfortunately that performance did not extend into overtime. In fact, it stopped about 13 seconds shy of the end of regulation.
But for 47 minutes and 47 seconds, the Raptors were at their Bosh-less best.
Energetic, knocking down shots, getting production from various spots throughout their roster. This one had all the makings of a major upset.
But needing one last basket to complete the show and with the ball in the hands of Hedo Turkoglu, the upset storyline went south.
Turkoglu took the inbounds pass, dribbled on the spot for what seemed an eternity and then rolled right hoping to find a lane to drive. But the Cavaliers aren’t exactly defensive neophytes and there was no lane to drive, so he looked for the pass. Again the Cavs had that covered and after a quick look at the clock, Turkoglu threw up a three-point prayer that had little chance of being answered.
Twice he was knocked to the floor in the opening half, but he got back up each time and never at any moment looked vulnerable.
Following each fall, James, it seemed, got stronger mentally, which is really scary given his physical prowess.
He needed help from his teammates the first time James lay on the floor three minutes into the night, but all James needed was six shots from the field to net 20 first-half points.
He is both a facilitator and a finisher, one who can lead a break or break an opponent’s will.
Whether he breaks the collective hearts of the state of Ohio is an issue that can’t be answered until the off-season.
Unless the Cavs and Raptors meet in the post-season, Friday’s appearance may have been the last time Toronto fans got a chance to see James in a Cleveland jersey.
Running a now-familiar play with Turkoglu handling the ball and looking to create something, the Raptors whittled down 13 seconds until about one remained when he let fly a three-pointer that missed badly.
There was little or no movement away from the ball and there were no screens to help Turkoglu get some extra space.
“I was going to come and look for (a drive) but I didn’t see a good path,” he said. “I felt good with the (three-pointer) I made before so I was feeling good and I wanted to take it.
“But in that situation, I could have taken a better shot instead of taking that three. You can’t really say much about it now.”
The debate will rage on whether he should have driven the ball or settled for a jumper but it was a shot he can make; he just didn’t.
“It was a play we had run early in the game and we had a pretty good look at it and we thought we could do that again,” said coach Jay Triano. “I guess Turk didn’t feel like he could get all the way to the basket so he settled for the jump shot (and) he is equally efficient shooting the ball as he is taking it to the basket.”
Neither team was particularly concerned about defence, which is why there was so much entertainment, but both were pretty sharp offensively. The Raptors shot 61.1 per cent from the floor in the first quarter, but found themselves down 33-30 as the Cavs hit 72.2 per cent.
But thanks to the work of Bargnani, Jack and forward Reggie Evans, the Raptors stayed with the best team in the NBA. Bargnani finished 9-for-17 from the floor, including two three-pointers. Evans had 13 points and led the team in rebounds with five, along with rookie guard DeMar DeRozan.
“[Evans] was good,” Triano said. “He went in and battled. As long as he is nice and close to the basket like that he does a great job of fighting and getting extra possession for us.
“His energy was infectious.”
There were times when it seemed the Raptors were ready to fold. Down six points with less than six minutes remaining, the Raptors allowed offensive rebounds on two successive shots. However, they still managed a stop, and scored a bucket going the other way. Three minutes passed, and the Cavaliers had bumped the lead back up to seven points. But again, the Raptors replied with two baskets and two stops.
And so it went for the majority of the evening. The Raptors were certainly never in control, but they never let the game get out of range, either.
In overtime, however, they deflated. Cavaliers superstar LeBron James led all scorers with 36 points, but it was Mo Williams who hit the Cavaliers’ first two of their three three-pointers.
That, essentially, was that. In a day, maybe there will be a moral victory. Not yet, though.
"Of course, you’re happy about how you performed and how you battled," Turkoglu said. "But still, in the end, you could have made better decisions and won the game. And we could have felt much better."
Video – Mo Williams talks with FOX Sports Ohio after Cleveland’s 126-118 OT win over Toronto. Williams scored 22 points in the win.
The Bosh-less Raptors stuck around and made it a game. The Cavs defense was spotty at best; the Raptors shot 48% and a couple of guys went off at different moments. With Shaq and Z both out, the Cavs were forced to go small with Varejao starting at center. Varejao got himself into foul trouble and the Cavs got some good minutes from Leon Powe (I love this team’s depth). Both Toronto and Cleveland had six players score in double figures and the Raptors had nice contributions from a lot of guys (I liked what I saw from Andrea Bargnani, 24-4-3, that dude is skilled).
Toronto is a pesky bunch that always seems to give the Cavaliers a tough time. Even without Chris Bosh, tonight was no exception. How does it happen? For the Raptors it was getting production from unlikely sources. Reggie Evans and Sonny Weems combine to average just over 8 points per game this season. Tonight, they combined to score 24 points on 9-15 shooting. Jarrett Jack also had a field day, scoring 24 points. In the end, though, it was the Cavaliers that made the plays that needed to be made.
“You’ve got to have patience,” Stoudamire said. “For me, everything I did as a player I had to relate that in conversations to the players.”
Ironically, he’s tapping into the same acquired knowledge that used to allow him to tune out his coaches. In the latter stages of his career he found pregame strategy sessions “redundant” because he already knew what to expect. Even now he sees coaches are running the same old stuff. But since he’s already seen it in so many forms, he can explain what’s coming next for a roster that has only three players over age 25. For example, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy’s top assistant is Brendan Malone, who was Stoudamire’s coach his rookie year in Toronto. He’ll scout Magic games and recognize the same sets he ran with the Raptors.
So he draws on his memories to instruct a group of players so young their data banks struggle to reproduce the entire arc of his career, which included a rookie of the year award and seasons finishing among the league leaders in three-pointers and asssists. O.J. Mayo was only 8 when Stoudamire was a rookie. He can recall that Stoudamire had a lefty jumper and was nicknamed Mighty Mouse, but not much beyond that.
Former Toronto Raptor Alvin Robertson faces sexual assault of a child and sex trafficking charges alleging he was among seven people who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution and made to dance at a strip club.
Robertson was taken into custody Friday in Bentonville, Ark., said Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Ino Badillo.
Robertson, 47, who scored the first points in Raptors history when the franchise began play in 1995, lives in San Antonio.
"We pay attention to LeBron and try to show him bodies and then they swing it and find threes," Raptors coach Jay Triano said, summing up the Cavaliers offensive strategy in overtime. "They did it three times in a row to start the overtime period and that put is in a hole."
While the Cavaliers may have been tired, they managed to find their second wind, something that comes easier when your franchise player is there to finish the game. After scoring 34 points in regulation, James finished with just two points in overtime, but assisted on three of the Cavaliers’ five made field goals to close out the victory.
"We spread the floor, ran pick-and-roll with Bron and guys got to sink in and help," Mo Williams said of the open looks he received. "When that happens, good things happen.Those are big shots you want to make and take."
The Cavs also got 22 points from Jamison, his most as a Cav. He also had 11 rebounds, battling inside against the bigger Andrea Bargnani down the stretch.
"They had Bargnani at the center and coach liked the matchup we had," Jamison said. "Center, power forward, small forward, I’ll go out there and try to get it done."
Helped by Jamison and guard Anthony Parker, who handled Hedo Turkoglu late in regulation and in overtime defensively, the Cavs held the Raptors to 1-of-8 shooting in the extra session. Parker also scored five of his 10 points in overtime.
"I was feeling good and I wanted to take it, but in that situation I could have taken a better shot instead," Turkoglu said.
Reggie Evans scored a season-high 13 points, Sonny Weems had 11 and Antoine Wright added 10 as Toronto lost consecutive home games for the first time since Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.
The Cavaliers have won 15 of their past 18 meetings with the Raptors.
I’ve gone back and forth on Bosh for about two months now. Early on this season, I figured he was as good as gone or he would be traded by the deadline. The Raptors started playing quality basketball and they didn’t move Bosh. I don’t see them beating any of the top four teams in the East in a seven game series, so that eliminates any possibility of them reaching the conference finals.
As of right now, if you asked me who I thought would be the most likely to leave their current teams out of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, it would be Bosh. He has wanted to return to the States for a while, and would prefer to go somewhere warm.
If LeBron leaves Cleveland, expect Bosh to follow. If not, I could see Bosh in Chicago, Miami or New York. By the way, if Bosh decides to leave, he will successfully murder basketball in Toronto. The Raptors would then be forced to sell a team led by Andrea Bargnani to their fans. Ouch.
– “That one stings, and now Toronto will have to find a way to get at least ONE in either Oklahoma City or Houston. They can’t slip into a 4-game losing streak.”
– “Valiant effort by Toronto. Unfortunately, the Raps couldn’t get stops – particularly in overtime.”
After the game Evans was willing to talk with the media about picking up the scoring slack in the first half and the confidence boost those 13 points provided to him as he battles back from an early season injury:
Bargs played his best offensive game in a while. I think his best move is his pull up jumper from the top of the arch, hoping in close to the free throw line and he just pops up a nice clean looking mid range jumper. Same problem for this team that I have been complaining about for years, they just stop giving him the ball in the second half of games. He had about 18 points in the first but rarely touched the ball the rest of the way. The only thing he does when he has the ball is create. Give the Italian his penne pasta!!! He looked particularly good on the head fake 180 dunk from baseline and the head fake, step out jumper he had on Lebron. Totally faked him out, bravo il Mago.
During my three years of covering the NBA I’ve witnessed a couple of entertaining things but Mike Brown’s post game media session might take the cake. When asked to describe the play of Reggie Evans and Leon Powe tonight he laughed and then decided to compare the two bruising forwards to bowling balls. The best part was when he then proceeded to make the sound of bowling balls crashing together.
Trust me, this is an MP3 you’ll want to listen to.
After having the basketball gods vow in our favor when the Lakers were in town, one could only assume the same luck would not occur yet again with another 1st place team. Despite the loss, it was great to see the Boshless Raptors keep up with the Cavaliers – I personally would like to the see the Raptors give Jarrett Jack a chance with the ball in hands at the end of a close game. Nothing against Turk -I still love the guy -but feel that when he is on Jack is just as capable and willing to take the big bucket look.
Though Toronto was unable to come away with the win in an attempt to satisfy the ruckus sold out crowd at the Air Canada Centre, they did manage to impress the most important fan. Tonight, the Raptors proved several things to Chris Bosh:
1. He is surrounded by a team who wants to win as bad as he does.
2. There is talent throughout the roster; both young and of the veteran type.
3. This team has a city ready to back it up.
4. The roster is built for him, meant to take advantage of his strengths.
Make no doubt about it. Chris Bosh probably walked away from that game feeling more satisfied than any of those who managed to take in the game on a Olympic Semi-Finals night. The fact that he was so engaged through the entire game speaks volumes about what he feels in regards to this franchise and city.