Third quarters have been the Raptors’ nemesis of late, but not last night, not with the big man rolling the way he was.
“I didn’t think he was very good in the first half and I don’t think he feels very good about his game in the second half, but we kept riding him and we knew he would come around,” coach Jay Triano said of Bosh. “He makes a couple and they have to step out on him. And then he started to do what we need him to do and that’s take the ball to the basket.”
To hear Bosh tell it, he might have had the big night on the scoresheet, but it was the encouragement and razzing from his teammates before, and throughout the game that helped make it happen.
“I just had opportunities,” Bosh said of his 36-point night. “That’s how I play basketball. If I feel I can provide a spark for my team, then I’m going to come out and do that. It worked out today.
“I give credit to my teammates. They stayed on me today. They encouraged me to shoot the basketball and just play hard.”
Bosh said he never goes looking for that type of thing from his teammates, but when it comes, he’s happy about it.
“Marcus (Banks), Jarrett (Jack) and Antoine (Wright), they were the main guys,” Bosh said of his rooting party.
“Before the game even started, they were on me about playing basketball. They made it fun. They were telling me what they wanted to see from me and what they wanted to do. Any time that happens, I look at it as a challenge. You don’t feel like you’re out there by yourself.”
The Nets, led by Devin Harris’ 22 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, offered some scrappy resistance. In some sequences – when, say, Harris made a memorable second-quarter basket, spinning past Jack before worming the ball beneath Bosh’s outstretched arm for a beautiful scooped bank shot – the home team looked as though it might have enough competitive fire to give the Raptors a run down the stretch. The lane often parted as the Nets drove it. And the Nets managed to haul down 16 offensive rebounds to Toronto’s 11, this despite the visitors’ insistence that they’re concentrating on keeping opponents off the glass.
And there were moments in the game, especially early, when Toronto’s on-court body language spoke of an ongoing struggle. Bosh tossed a ball out of bounds, one of his game-high six turnovers, and Hedo Turkoglu, in the midst of a 4-for-13 shooting night, shook his head in disgust.
"We can’t let these kinds of games slide away," said Turkoglu after it was over.
Added Reggie Evans: "Sometimes we play down to the level of our competition. This was a good win for us not to play to their level. It feels good to get a win, period."
After Toronto fell behind 55-48, Bosh hit seven of 10 shots the rest of the period to key a 32-15 run that gave Toronto an 80-70 lead entering the final quarter.
“I just had opportunities … that’s how I play basketball,” Bosh said. “If I feel I can provide a spark for my team I am going to come out and do that. It worked out today.”
Bosh was particularly good at getting away from Nets centre Brook Lopez (18 points, 13 rebounds) for open jumpers or driving by the defence when they got too close.
Raptors forward Reggie Evans just smiled when asked about Bosh’s game.
“That’s why you hear him with the talk about Dwyane Wade and LeBron James,” Evans said. “That’s nothing new for him. That was a good game for him and all of us. When he gets it going it opens doors for everyone.”
The Raptors, booed off their home court Friday in a 26-point loss to the Thunder, got in at 2:30 a.m., stayed in Manhattan and got waylaid by tunnel traffic.
And they still beat the Nets, who were back at full strength through the returns of Devin Harris (22 points, after a two-game upper-respiratory infection absence) and Yi Jianlian (nine points after missing six games with a high ankle sprain — the Nets would have been better off if he missed seven).
Yi shot 3 of 10 and was invisible defensively. The Nets shot 39.8 percent (33.3 percent in the second half) against the league’s 28th-rated defense.
The Nets blew it in the final 8:07 of the third quarter when they bricked 12 of 15 shots, committed three turnovers and went from a four-point lead to a 10-point deficit.
"It’s frustrating," Harris said. "Obviously there are key plays we’re not making down the stretch."
The Nets, who botched a key fast break with 4:26 left to miss a chance to pull within five, are now 7-62, losers of seven straight, trying to avoid breaking the mark of the 1972-73 Sixers, who were an all-time worst 9-73. Chins up — those Sixers lost their final 13 games.
The Nets tried to defend Bosh by either denying the ball, staying with his first move, or double-teaming on the catch to force a pass. Boone admitted that if Bosh gets that first step, he’s among the best in the league at finishing the play. And even when Bosh struggles, he remains capable of reeling off a stretch that reveals the reasons he’s one of the top three potential free agents this offseason.
The game pivoted midway through the third quarter, when Toronto went on a 24-10 run that flipped a seven-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. Bosh scored 11 of the first 18 points, and dished an assist to push his contribution up by two more. When a player that skilled ignites, the defense does not have easy access to extinguishers.
“You’ve just got to do your best to contest the shot, take away his first move and then just hope he misses it, definitely,” Boone said.
here’s the Nets team output in the second half – 39 points, .333.
Highlighted by that robust 8:07 stretch (3-for-15, three-turnover) to end the third period.
But here’s the thing that bugs you most:
Toronto, who had been booed out of Air Canada Centre Friday night after being blasted by 26 against the Thunder, didn’t exactly start this game like a team seeking redemption.
The Nets had a 51-48 lead at the break, by which time Harris had ripped the Raps for 16 points, which he compiled by hitting seven of his last nine shots – many of them while driving into the chest of a curiously docile Bosh.
Basically, the Nets learned what has become obvious to everyone else in the league: The Raps are probably the softest defensive team in the league, with an average yield (106 per game, ranked 28th) to prove it.
Second half? Your team was outscored 26-12 in the paint.
If the team plays well. Similar to how they were playing before the all-star break. They should be able to get the number 6 or 7 seed. Doing that will land Toronto either Boston or Orlando in the playoffs. Two teams the Raptors have a chance at defeating.
If they play poorly and continue to slide down the standings. They’ll either sneak into eighth and have to face the Cleveland Cavaliers or they’ll finish ninth and miss the playoffs all together.
Both would be disastrous.
Without stepping forward. And by that I mean advancing into the second round. Chris Bosh will almost certainly leave the team. That would leave Bryan Colangelo up the creek without a paddle, forced to salvage what he can, by utilizing a sign and trade.
– Bosh put the team on his shoulders for the first time in a long time.
– Hedo Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani. Turk was 1 for 9 (FG) in the 2nd half (though he did finish with a fairly solid 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover). Meanwhile, Bargnani was 2 for 5 (FG) overall … ending the game with 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 turnovers. In the first half he had 0 points, 1 rebound, and 3 fouls.
– “It’s not exactly like beating the 1995-96 Bulls but this was still a good win for Toronto anyway – a must-win considering Chicago’s victory in Philly tonight.”
– “Finally a decisive 3rd quarter win for Toronto. That was the difference in pushing the Raptors to the victory.”
Although I was happy to see the Raps get the win, in particular with the Bulls getting a W, there were times during the broadcast when I started wondering whether it’s not too late for the Raps this season. What is the best case scenario for this team now?
On the one hand they could make the playoffs as the 7th or 8th team. Now making the playoffs is generally a good thing but I have little doubt that if the Raps do slide into the second season they will simply play the role of sacrificial lamb to either Cleveland or Orlando. There is little evidence that the Raps could win a first round series and I have a hard time believing that another token appearance in the playoffs is what will convince Bosh to stay. From where I am sitting it was going to take a second round appearance for Bosh to be convinced that this team was heading in the right direction.
On the flip side, the Raps could not make the playoffs. That on it’s face would be a worse scenario but maybe, just maybe, it would be better for the franchise. The way I see it, making the playoffs and losing in 4 or 5 games is essentially no better than just watching the playoffs from home. In either case this team disappointed and changes are required. The biggest difference however, is that should the Bulls managed to climb ahead of the Raps in the standings then this team will suddenly have a first round pick in what is shaping up to be a decent draft class.