“That’s a guy, no disrespect to anyone else we have, but he has the game to go one-on-one and finish a play,” said coach Dwane Casey. “He has done it throughout his career. . . . He got it for us. He did it for us. He fought through a lot of frustration.” Gay had been bottled up most of the night by Pacers all-star Paul George, but when the game was on the line Gay made an impact.
So that’s why the Toronto Raptors traded for Rudy Gay.
First and foremost, Rudy Gay. The whole “closer” thing in the NBA is a bit of a myth, because fans and plenty of old school media guys simply see a closer as a guy who has hit a few game-winning shots in his career, and therefore is more likely to do it again. In truth, “closing” tight basketball games is as much about taking care of your possessions, playing defence, and solidifying a defensive stop with a rebound as it is about that one shot at the end that will live on in everyone’s mind. But as I mentioned in my analysis of the trade the night it went down, Gay does provide a type of “closer” role that the Raptors have been sorely lacking for years. Not just because he has hit some big shots in his career, but because he has a rare ability as a 6-8 forward (other than the absolute elite players that size) to handle the ball and create for himself in short clock situations. And that’s what he did tonight in Indiana.
“I just can’t be that careless at the end of the game with the ball. I second-guessed myself, hesitated a little bit, and threw it short. We just didn’t close the game the right way, and so, we didn’t get the win. They made the plays to close the game, and we didn’t.” That’s David West describing the pivotal play in the Pacers’ 100-98 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors. Up two with six seconds left, Indy just needed to get the ball inbounds and hit free throws. That’s when West made an ill-advised attempt to hit a streaking Lance Stephenson that Rudy Gay picked off. An Amir Johnson putback at the buzzer got Toronto five extra minutes.
In the overtime period, the Pacers fought back from a four-point deficit to take a lead, but weren’t able to get the stops to stay up, with a couple of costly turnovers setting Toronto up with under ten seconds and Gay hitting the game winning jumper over Paul George to seal the win when George’s final attempt bounced off the rim. Indiana was an inbound pass away from winning, but these things happen. The Raptors were in the game all night, the Pacers weren’t able to put them away despite holding them at arms’ length through the first three quarters.
“We have to have that bulldog mentality,” Gay said afterwards when asked about the physical nature of the game. “Kyle Lowry’s always had it and I think he’s kind of bringing it out of me.” And clearly something is bringing it out in everyone else. “No one said this process was going to be easy,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Guys grinded it out and stuck with it, but again, we’re still in the process.
It’s hard not to get excited about this win, as there were so many positives. The Raps’ fourth quarters recently have been disastrous, but tonight they made up an 8-point deficit to force the extra period. Rudy’s shooting was in the freezer in the first half – he was literally talking to himself after missing a layup. However, he did what coaches have been saying since Dr. Naismith nailed up peach baskets – keep taking good shots, and they will start to fall. Fortunately they did, as Rudy scored 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Rudy Gay era has officially arrived for Toronto fans. The night it happened was February 8, 2013. At approximately 21:52 est Rudy Gay sank a shot over an out-stretched and recent all-star selection Paul George to stun Indiana fans at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It’s our seventh overtime of the season, and by now all the Raptors are seasoned veterans of this five-minute format. They start quickly with a two each from Johnson and Bargnani. However, David West quickly comes back with four points of his own, taking advantage of Valanciunas’ defense. Jonas is clearly out of his depth defending David West.