Raptors 72, Heat 96 – Box

You can see it on Dwane’s Casey’s face when he puts Solomon Alabi out there. He’s literally cringing as he sees a very very raw basketball player looking like a deer in the headlights as Lebron James comes barreling towards him. Head buried in his hands, he sees Lebron go for a layup-and-1. It was almost like Lebron didn’t know Solo was there.

Tanking’s not for everybody.

At least the Raptor’s kept it competitive for 2 and a half quarters. The dynamic that’s playing out during the end of this season is that the effort level of a team is determined by how much the players on the team have something to prove on a personal level.

Atlanta and Boston, a lock for the playoffs with a bunch of established veterans riding out the final few games of the busiest season they’ve ever played. Not really motivated.

Toronto, with guys like Ben Uzoh, Justin Dentmon, Alan Anderson who are playing for their basketball lives. An potential NBA contract on the line.

So when our old pal Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade decided to sit the game out, you had the Norris Coles and Dexter Pittmans pretty much working their tails off to prove they belong on this Miami team.

And then there’s the fact that Lebron James is one of the best players in history having arguably his best season. Motivated or not, he played the perfect game. It is really the way to maximize his talents. Have him dominate the ball and he makes the players around him better.

Before we can get ourselves excited again with the NBA draft, many of us who are simply basketball fans will be watching the playoffs. It seems that Lebron and the Unholy Alliance is not as hated as they were last year, fresh off the controversial Decision. Lebron seems to be in a better head space, and regardless of whether the Heat are the best fit as a team, there is just too much talent for them not to win the championship handily this year.

Only three players have won the MVP and not won a championship. Charles Barkley (Jordan), Karl Malone (Jordan) and Steve Nash. Only Steve Nash of those three has multiple MVP’s. Lebron’s poised to grab his third MVP. It’s only a matter of time, folks.

The one Raptor-related observation last night other than Dwane Casey’s internal sufferings, is about James Johnson.

After many years of hoping guys like Michael Bradley, Rafael Araujo, the Roko Ukic’s and the Joey Graham’s (apparently the Michael Jordan of “practise” players), grabbing onto scraps of decent box scores and flashes of decent play, a pessimism has developed about seeing younger guys and their supposed potential.

But James Johnson, it’s safe to say, if he can continue to lose some weight and work on his shot, there’s a lot there. But let’s see you blosson next year, James.

Now’s Solo’s time to shine.