Well, we can’t say that one wasn’t entertaining, can we? The Raptors delivered a hell of a comeback effort in the second half against a team that was clearly more talented, particularly at the forward positions, thanks in particular to the play of a few key players off the bench (click here for the Quick Reaction and player grades) and a never-say-die effort that’s quickly becoming the hallmark of this team. Say what you will about Casey’s schemes and lineup choices (though, for the most part, I thought he did a decent job in that department down the stretch tonight), but his passion for the game is clearly contagious, and our guys are certainly buying in. It was great to see the crowd get into it too – not that the ACC doesn’t normally have a good crowd (I’d say it’s above average on most nights), but their energy clearly fed to the players in the fourth quarter and made the game a lot more exciting as we got down to the final minutes.

All of that being said, we did lose tonight – dropping our record to 14-25 on the season. I’m not ready to call the season just yet (I’m certainly not one of the eternal optimists that was predicting playoffs before the year began), but if we haven’t hit that tipping point yet for those still holding out, we’re damn close. After the 3 and 3 homestand, most pundits had pointed to this back to back with the Nets and Bobcats as the Raps’ last chance to pull their record close enough to a .500-ish level that they could conceivably contend for a playoff spot. Given our current record, we’d have to finish the season 24-19 just to finish at 38-44 for the year – an extremely tough proposition as the schedule turns once again (and that record isn’t even close to guaranteeing an 8-seed).

If this was the Raptors’ swan song as potential playoff contenders in the East, though, what a game it was. It sure felt like it had everything, tonight, from some highly questionable reffing calls to both teams having a player go Beast Mode in subsequent halves (Boozer, than Lowry), to our rookie second-rounder setting the unofficial Raptors drawn-charges record. We’ll get to everything in good time, but when I get asked “good news or bad news?” I always prefer the bad news first, so let’s start with why we lost the game.

It’s almost too obvious to mention, but in the early going, Carlos Boozer absolutely killed us in the post. As I’ve written on this site countless times, physical big men seem to be the antidote to our Amir/Ed combo on D, and last night was no different for the first 2+ quarters, as he seemed to turn into Karl Malone in his prime. Maybe Derrick Rose left the end of a bottle of “Michael’s Secret Stuff” in the Bulls’ locker room for him, but, from my vantage point, it seemed like the major issue for the Raptors’ interior D in the early going was positioning. Ed drew the matchup on Boozer when he was on the floor, leaving Amir on the taller Joakim Noah, but it seemed like he forgot to play defence before his mark had the ball for multiple stretches, leaving the larger Boozer free to roam the paint and set up wherever he pleased. Boozer had 17 points in the first quarter, 12 of which were on shots within 4 feet of the hoop, and regardless of a size disadvantage, that kind of access to the hoop is unacceptable. Luckily for the Raps, he fell into foul trouble late in the game, which both sent him to the bench and diminished his offensive role somewhat in crunch time, but early on, he was absolutely torching the Raptors like few players have this year.

Turnovers reared their ugly head again this game, though it was one key stretch of plays that really made my pull my hair out. After the bench worked their way back into the game from a 10 point deficit, the Raptor starters came back in to close out the half and promptly gave away the ball to the Bulls 4 times in under a minute, leading to their 8 point halftime deficit. The downside of a team that bases a lot of its ability to compete on emotion and effort is that they are far more viable to “pressing” – not the full court kind, but overexerting themselves and working too hard to make a play (basically, “pre-injury Lowry-itis”). This, coupled with the Bulls’ excellent perimeter defence, led to a string of ugly possessions in a row that really put the Raptors on their heels going into the tunnel – it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to think of all the expletives Casey probably dropped on his charges during the break.

While we’re on the subject, though, the Bulls play REALLY good defence. As Matt Devlin said during the broadcast, this is the kind of team that Casey is hoping the Raptors can become – a group of overachieving wings who are greater than the sum of their parts surrounding a couple of intimidating presences in the middle. Noah and Boozer clearly were in the Raptor starters’ heads early – given our lack of floor spacing in our starting five (only Jose is a competent 3 point shooter) and the threat of the Bull bigs in the middle, the Raptor offence was too often left to the death-knell of mediocre teams: the mid-range jumper. This, coupled with the Bull wings’ ability to contest almost every shot that went up, both made life difficult for the Raptors on every possession, as well as made it even more impressive what the bench was able to do to keep the team in the game.

The starters in general struggled tonight (though the bigs were key late on the boards). After making a barrage of mid-range shots to start the game, DeMar, as he has too often done, decided to settle on this shot for the majority of the game, and, once they stopped falling, the Bulls essentially ignored him without consequence. Fields had another rough game on offense as well, though given his place on the team that’s a bit less surprising, and Jose was largely invisible, though you’d have to put some of the onus on that to Lowry’s incredible game.

The third quarter started much the way the second did, with Rip Hamilton joining Boozer on the “score whenever you want” train and the Raps seemingly struggling to get off any shots at all for a stretch. The lead stretched to 19 at one point, and even the most steadfast Raptors fan had to admit that at this point the game was probably over.

To paraphrase Twain, though: rumours of their death were greatly exaggerated.

The Raptors’ comeback in the second half was as unexpected for Raptor fans as it must have been familiar to them – it seems like we’ve been subjected countless times to the classic “game in hand… oh wait” performance, yet tonight, we were the team doing the coming back. Even if you were disappointed with the way the game started, it was hard not to get swept up in the emotion of watching the Raps swing the momentum, and the crowd, back in their favor.

I spoke about this in my Quick Reaction, but the three biggest reasons for the Raptor comeback are as follows: Lowry, Anderson, Acy. The entire Raptor bench outplayed the starters for the entire game, all finishing with a positive plus/minus while the first unit was in the negative, but it was the play of these three that turned the tide – to a smaller extent in the first half, but much more obviously in the second.

Tonight, we saw Lowry at his absolute finest. It seems like these last couple game have helped him find his happy medium between “hero-ball” Lowry and “passive Jose” Lowry, and he routinely made the right decision with the ball – driving when he had the proper switch, and passing when the situation warranted. I can’t find a video of his last-second wrap-around pass to Quincy Acy at the end of the 3rd, but it was a thing of beauty; he was the best player on the floor tonight when it counted, for either team, and no matter how often we see it, that’s a promising sign.

I don’t want to spend too much time breaking down Anderson’s game – the beauty of Alan Anderson is that it’s easy to know what to expect from him on the offensive end, and the only variable is whether or not his shot is falling. Tonight, it was, and so he was very effective as the primary scorer off the bench unit; the yang to Lowry’s yin. I do want to give a thumbs up to his deny defence on Luol Deng, which was excellent, but I’d also like to draw attention to his shot selection tonight. Here’s his chart:

For a guy known as a long-range bomber, that’s a pretty nice variety of shot selection, especially against a team who’s known for being an imposing presence inside. DeMar, are you listening? Here’s his chart, for those interested:


I’d also like to extend another kudos to Quincy Acy, who was given his most significant minutes of the year and responded in a big way. Four charges in a game is almost unheard of (even though one was a pretty blatant flop), and I love the way he works hard to do the little things, like running the floor on the fast break or chasing down loose balls. Hopefully his effort will result in him getting fourth big minutes from Aaron Gray once Jonas comes back, as at this point, there’s no downside to giving him 10-15 minutes a game, unless we’re considerably outsized down low.

The Bulls went cold in the fourth quarter, which gave the Raptors plenty of chances to pull themselves back in the game, but some final kudos need to go to Ed Davis and Amir Johnson (and Lowry, for that matter) for their great effort on the offensive glass. The Raptors had 7 offensive boards in the quarter (the Bulls had 9 rebounds total), and those extra possessions were key in giving them any chance to take this game in the waning seconds.

I don’t have a ton to say about overtime. The game was a war of attrition at that point, with both teams battling foul trouble, and we had a wide-open Calderon 3 to win – essentially just less than a coin-flip, which is a pretty good position to be in against a team as strong as the Bulls. As for the reffing – it’s a tough job, I guess, but the Raptor homer in me is saying that Luol Deng CLEARLY pushed off on Fields and that Amir CLEARLY was fouled in the act. Those things happen, though, and it was partly the ticky-tack calls all over the floor that helped keep the Raptors in the game.

All said, the endgame of this one is becoming all to familiar to Raptors fans: a great effort squashed by a superior team and some questionable decision making. As a fan, I sure had a great time watching this game, but I can’t help but wonder what it’ll feel like to write a post-game when we finally pull one of these out. Dare to dream.

  • iHeartLowry

    Nice write-up. 

    • BCBargnaniJoseCaseyGots2Go!!!

      Save the floor spacing drama as Chicago has the same issue- and?

      Raptors are now 3-18 vs above .500 teams this season.

      The NBA is all about Ws & Ls whether by 1 or 20 moral victories are for teams taking Ls- now rock BC’s bells!!

      Jose ‘PG Controversy’ Calderon in full e-f-f-e-c-t!

  • Test

    Joachim Noah??

    • Garrett Hinchey

      Changed, thanks!

  • Amigo

    IMO this loss is on Primo Pasta. How can you let Boozer get 36 12 3 assist in just 40 min. That’s on this lazy euro soft cheese mama for sure.End of story Juliette (B.Mrphy)

  • FAQ

    ..”Lowry at his absolute finest”… are you friggin’ crazy??!!!!

    Kyle doesn’t know how to pass the ball to the bigs and when he tries
    he botches it up…. so he keeps the ball and goes for the hoop…. and
    you think this is okay???!!!!!

    If you think Kyle’s heroics are going to win games, you have the IQ of a tribal honking  orangutang..!!!


    • j bean

      So your solution is for Lowry to not score so much himself but pass it into the bigs who were having problems all night.
      Yeah I guess it’s obvious, Raptors would have won if Lowry wasn’t such a ball hoggin street baller. Never mind his 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 26 pts  and +16. Yeah Can’t win with players like that.

      • CJT

        Have to agree, I thought this was Lowry being very good.  He made good decisions with the ball while still playing to his strengths. One of his best games as a Raptor. 

    • pran

      everyone be nice to this guy okay? He is obviously suffering from some sort of mental retardation.

      • j bean

        Oh. I’m sorry. Mental retardation isn’t the pc term anymore but I guess he is a “special” person.

      • onemanweave

         You need to cut my friend FAQ some slack. He has this whimsical, under-played sense of humor that takes some getting used to.  Most of his apparently hurtful, insensitive boorish comments are nothing more than slightly-overdone satire.
           He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but is underneath that gruff exterior a sensitive, caring individual — the big lug.

    • The Truth

      If Kyle didn’t take control then Raps were looking to lose this one by 15-20.

  • j bean

    The play of Acy has to mean more playing time. If T Ross can figure it out on a consistent basis it was a very nice draft. 
    Anderson has done it enough times to prove he is no fluke.
    The last two games gave us a couple of amazing comebacks against good teams, not wins but much better to watch than losing by 20+. 

    • Gregast

      I agree. To play rookies in the NBA means there will be times of frustration and head scratching. Dwane likes to call these ‘learning points’. It strikes me that Casey is probably a great ‘first’ coach for a rookie in the NBA. TRoss and Acy are nice additions to the team for 2013 and someone should get some credit for their acquisition.

      Acy sure understands how to play with Kyle Lowry. Kind of like Amir and Jose. They think alike offensively.

  • Daniel

    It is very significant that Lowry played well in the last 2 games with a huge deficit. That’s exactly where he excels: sparkplug off the bench. He played so and so in the first half of both games however in the second half we had nothing to lose so he had green light to do whatever he wanted.He has energy and toughness, unfortunately he doesn’t know how to play to win for 48 minutes.
    The most concerning thing for me is the fact that we allowed over 100 points the last 3 games. We don’t have one decent defender in this team at the guard or wing position except Pietrus. Our bigs are competent one-on-one however they have to cover for numerous breakdowns on the perimeter. Yesterday our bigs fronted the opposing bigs in order to help with the perimeter breakdowns and they got killed on the baseline back cuts. Demar, Anderson, Fields and Ross don’t have a low defensive stance so they get blown by every time. Jose and Lowry do stay low however Lowry gambles all the time and turns his back to his coverage after a pass. Jose stays low and he knows how to funnel his man into help however he gets killed on postups. We do have offensive firepower however we can’t stop anybody. We were better defensively with Pietrus and Kleiza. Their minutes have been replaced by Fields and Acy and the results are not pretty defensively.

    • j bean

      It was a short time ago your comments were all about how Jose must start and Kyle was a terrible pick up, that Lucas was better. Well now that they have lost 5 of the last 7 with Jose starting your only comment about him is that he is a better defender than Lowry.

      • Gregast

        Maybe Daniel is suggesting he likes Jose’s style of play. ;-).

      • Daniel

        I don’t have an agenda against Lowry. I don’t think our last 3 losses can be placed at PG’s feet. I believe Lowry played bad with the Bucks. Lowry is who he is: a career backup PG of a scoring combo variety. I appreciate that he tries to fit in the team concept. We have 2 wins the entire season with Lowry starting and 12 with Jose.
        My problem with picking up Lowry had been regarding our asset management: we didn’t need him if we kept Jose because we had huge holes at other positions. Jose and Lucas could have held up the PG position easily had we upgraded at the wing position. In addition, the management sold the idea of Lowry like some kind of saviour and not the player traded by 2 organizations after deeming him to be a backup PG. With Andrea and Derozan high usage players we didn’t need a third high usage player, especially in the same lineup. Anyway, that’s water under the bridge. I hope for all our players to be successful by making the team successful. The coaching completely screwed up this season managing the skillsets we have. A starting lineup of Lowry, Derozan, Fields, Bargnani and Jonas was a joke. We were lucky that injuries changed the direction of the team.
        Going forward, the brass wants development and playoffs in the same time thus not commiting to one direction or another. I think our core players suck and I have no idea how will the rookies develop. This is the 4th consecutive season with none of our wings having a PER of 15 or above which is unacceptable. In the meantime we are tearing ourselves apart over the PG position where we have been the best throughout this period.

        • Jerry

          You are a Jose Calderon fanboy that is your agenda fool!

          • cesco

            I hope this idiot jumps off the don valley when he realizes the player he has a hard-on for is going to be gone in a couple weaks. fucking idiot.

        • SukaTori

           at the end comes reasonable words very clear and for most reasons even true

        • j bean

          Any other fanbase would run Lowry out of town. He’s not a basketball player, period. Lowry is the most toxic asset we’ve ever had and for the Raptors this says a lot.

          These are a couple of your quotes in case you forget your agenda regarding Lowry. 

  • SukaTori

    believe or not – at the end we’re eating always the same lasagna ( green, red …. change sauce but always lasagna is) for sure it’ll take a long time before we will get a good beef ? bon appetite

  • SukaTori

    at the end comes reasonable words very clear and for most reasons even true

  • Canadian Paul

    The Raps keep getting shafted by the refs. Last night was unbelievable. I was listening to the Chicago announcers and when a call was iffy against the Raps, they just went silent and didn’t dare comment, because the replay was clear. It happened time after time, but the refs kept making “mistakes”.

    The Raps are not as bad as their record is. They should be at least 18-21, if not better.

    Too bad that they can’t tank and get a pick this year.

    • Jerry Garcia

      Shaft City…..it was painful watching knowing the Zebra’s get paid for that level of inefficiency. Somebody hand Quincy a saxophone. 

    • Manti’sGF

      It’s unbelievable how badly the Raptors have been getting shafted by the refs … OVER THE YEARS! 

      Sure, every team can rightfully claim SOME shafting here and there, but it’s HOW and WHEN the Raptors get consistently shafted that makes it different than what any other team can point to. 

      It’s those very times right when that certain other team needs a boost … or a break … or a couple of free throws to slow the momentum … or change it … or make certain it continues just enough to make it that little extra difficult for the Raptors. And there’s a hundred little ways to do it … and it only has to happen occasionally enough to make it seem that it’s probably just another bad roll of the dice. 

      But that’s not what it is. It happens way too consistently at opportune (or inopportune) times for that. 

      And just when someone might’ve thought that MAYBE it was getting better because we went a stretch of games when it wasn’t as blatant as it so often is and has been … the Bulls come to town with their legacies and their history and their overall very large importance to the NBA … and sure enough, when just the right call can be made at just the right time(s) to help ’em along … we see it again. 

      An obvious foul conveniently missed by the refs. A phantom foul that nobody but that particular ref saw. Or whatever else it might be that can serve the purpose for the moment. They’re so very good at it. 

      Most of us can recall our own favorite nightmare-moments about this topic … and we all know that what we’ve seen and what we see would have some fan-bases rioting in the streets. 

      Smitch was on the radio today talking about how the refs wouldn’t dare risk their jobs by fooling around like that … but what he didn’t touch on was how, just maybe, the very crookedness that most of us have witnessed repeatedly, comes from … way up top. 

      It’s an uncomfortable subject for most fans … but a whole lot of Raptors fans have really wondered about that … and who could blame us? 

      Some long for the days to come when no Raptors fan – or any NBA fan – believes that this crap goes on and that those who say “no way could they or would they! …” are more right than wrong. But we’re not anywhere near that time. 

      Almost every Raptors fan who has watched games closely over the years knows that this topic reeks with a stink that any NBA fan other than a Raptors fan would rather just not even think about. 

      But it continues along … 

  • FAQ

    Oh, the tribal honkers are out to protect their beloved Kyle because he plays so well all by himself..!!!

    Too bad Kyle doesn’t have the team play and passing skills that Jose possesses.

    Of course that doesn’t matter if you have already bought your #3 Lowry jersey and his poster picture is up on your bedroom wall (where you pleasure yourself fantacising that you are him)… and mancrush too.

    • Bboca

      Thank you for your “special” insight.

  • Durant a raptor!!!!

    Anybody see the news “durant wanted to play for the raptors!!”. Real GM breaking news. God Dam wouldn’t it be great to have the upper management to see durant coming into the league ahead of time so our team could of made a push for him in the draft. Fuckin tank the season if it gives us a chance at a franchise player that only comes around every ten years. Sucks….to be a raptor fan.

    • True

      Even harder to be a Portland fan…

  • JHP

    I’m waiting for the news JV and AB have been shut down for the year.  That way BC can say say give me more time, all my players were hurt.  You imagine missing months for a broken finger.