For the first 36 minutes, last night’s game was hard to watch. Then, for about 10 minutes of the 4th quarter, it was an actual NBA basketball game; a total pleasure to behold. And then, in the final minute of the game, the refs called all that is good, honest and pure in the world and destroyed our collective belief in truth, justice and all things good and pure in this world.
The Big Things:
Last night’s game essentially ended when what should have been a clutch 3 pointer from Lowry at worst to huge 4-point play opportunity at worst somehow became the most phantom of phantom offensive foul calls, the basket waived off and Kyle Lowry given a technical foul for being justifiably upset and subsequently ejected. I don’t know what it is that Kyle Lowry did to make the league powers that be hate him so much, but they are making their point LOUD AND CLEAR. Kyle, if you’re out there, I don’t know who you need to apologize to or what for, but you just let me know and I’ll start putting together a kickstarter to cover the bribe/blackmail payout to clear this all up. Because it’s getting out of control.
Coach Dwayne Casey’s old man anger was both poignant and dead-on in his post-game press conference. He talked about this team’s struggles to stay motivated throughout the game against foes they think they’re better than. We’ve seen it happen time and time again this season. The Raptors played like they didn’t want to win for 3 quarters because they didn’t think that they would lose. This team thinks that they can coast through the game and then pull it off with a late push. But their insanely good 4th quarter stats (top 4 in every key defensive marker, and 1st place in most of them) shouldn’t be evidence to a mature team that they can coast through games getting by on their good looks (comeback ability/defensive intensity) alone; they’re not good-looking enough to pull that off long term. Even the Miami Heat often lose regular season games (or at least it’s often the case when they do lose) because they’re so confident in themselves that they coast until its time to pour it on late and pull out a win. Hell, the Heat have lost multiple playoff games this way! And the Miami Heat the Raptors are not. Coach Casey is right, this team needs to grow up and play entire games at their potential if they want to be taken seriously.
Sacramento looked defeated when the Raptors cut the lead to 8 points after a few shots of Novakaine. They are a team who expected to lose. But expectations don’t win games for Toronto or lose them for Sacramento. Toronto lost this game because of a combination of hubris and just plain laziness. And the refs hating Kyle Lowry as if he’s solely responsible for everything that’s happening in Sochi right now—but it never should have even gotten that far. This should have been a capable win for the Raptors, instead of an embarrassing loss due to a quite simply insane foul call.
The Little to Completely Trivial Things:
- If someone can lock Terrence Ross in a room and just force him to watch video of his soul-eating dunk on Kenneth Faried, he just might realize how terrifying of a scorer he could be if he just finished to the hoop with aggression. He’s playing too Canadian; too tentative. It’s practically polite. And it’s landing him a spot on the wrong end of Casey’s bench beside street clothes Landry Fields.
- DeMarcus Cousins-Isaiah Thomas pick’n rolls are just the best. If you’re anything close to considering you’re a contender in the NBA, the Sacramento Kings should not be beating you. Between Thomas’ quickness and hesitation moves and DeMarcus’ rare ability to knock down the jumper and blow right by you to the rim with his freakish size and athleticism, any big man trying to contain that action pressing to the basket requires either a hand gun or the force to stop it. No matter who you are, that Cousins’-Thomas pick’n roll is going to put points up against you.
- The Hayes-Patterson combo can’t defend the rim. But at least they play hard and maintain the team intensity on the court. “At leasts” don’t win you a whole lot of games on their own though.
- Kyle Lowry is a top defender in this league. In the first half he got switched on to Rudy Gay off of a screen and was immediately trapped down low and out of position. Lowry was giving up 8 inches of height and a solid 30-40 pounds in size. But Lowry over-powered Gay for position and denied the entrance pass to the post that was meant for him. This guy is a beast.
- Valanciunas rebounded well, but he did not get the best of things in his matchup against Cousins. At one point Cousins got Valanciunas to bite embarrassingly hard on a half-asses pump fake and drew a foul on the play. It seemed cruel; nobody wants people to bite on half-assed pump fakes more than Jonas, and nobody ever believes that his pump fakes are anything but a strange Eastern European pop-and-lock dance move.
- Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan both came out wearing the same pair of vibrant purple shoes that looked unmistakably like they were playing NBA Jam and constantly holding the turbo button down. General Grievis rocked a lime green pair, which is helpful as it made it possible to finally distinguish between who was 1st player and who was 2nd player.