Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce... win

Taken from my latest article on Raptors Watch

“It was bouncing, it was bouncing. I was just praying, praying, praying. Thank you, Jesus. It went in”
– Raymond Felton on his game-winning shot

“I think we did a good job,” Bargnani said. “It was good defense by Calderon and what can you say about that shot? There is nothing to say about that shot.”
– Andrea Bargnani

Another Raptor career night, another entertaining close game – another loss. The Raptors will be shaken after seeing Raymond Felton’s game-winning 3 pointer find its way into the hoop after bouncing around the rim 5 times, but it was a positive performance… For one man anyway.

Andrea Bargnani

Last night, Andrea completely justified my claims. His career night was impressive in so many ways: He drove to the basket, hit 3′s, and knocked down mid-range jumpers. But put those amazing numbers aside for a second and look at his other stats. Andrea’s ability to pass out of the double team was efficient, and led him to grab 6 assists along with his 7 rebounds.

What’s even more impressive – he’s a center. 40+ for a center in a game is not that common these days. In fact, believe it or not, last night’s performance was the highest point total in a game for a center since Shaq in 2007.

We’ve waited 4 years for this performance – the propitious beginning of a golden era. Vote Canada. Vote, vote, vote.

Beyond Bargs

This is one of the few games I’d say the box score reflects the game pretty well. Even though it was a close one, you can’t expect Andrea to carry this team by himself offensively.

Beyond Andrea, the Raptors had good production from Demar Derozan who cashed in with 19 points  – 19 points that were largely achievable because he wasn’t settling for jumpers. By now, we’ve seen what works for Demar and what doesn’t. He struggles on nights where he camps outside the 3-point ark, and is prosperous when he’s active on the floor, moving, getting open, and driving to the lane. Hopefully he realizes this. If he doesn’t, someone on the coaching staff must pinpoint it.

Prior to the game, I talked about the woeful shooting from the Raptor wings – Barbosa, Weems, Kleiza, and Derozan: just 23-of-72 in the 2 games prior. Well, the only player to step up for this game out of that quartet was Derozan, as the former 3 went 8-for-25, on you guessed it – mostly long-range jumpers.

Calamitous 4th quarter

As we all saw last night, there was a series of unfortunate events that favored the Knicks late in the 4th. But before I get into that, Amare Stoudemire needs to collect his accolades. He’s turned this Knicks franchise around. His absurd number aside, his attitude and clutch play in the 4th quarter on a consistent basis is exemplary of an all-star player. He is the justification of why the Knicks are where they are right now. He was, of course, clutch again in the 4th against the Raptors – scoring 18 of his 34 points in the final frame.

Not taking anything away from the stellar Amare, but there was some questionable match-up problems late in the 4th. While Amir Johnson was on the bench – most notably due to foul trouble – Jose Calderon was stuck guarding Amare as a result of not being able to fight through screens. Andrea was stuck guarding Chandler out on the perimeter, and Linas Kleiza was playing the 4 spot. As you can imagine, Jose just got abused down low, while Kleiza’s help defense on Amare was deplorable. Not that anyone expecst Kleiza to be capable of containing Amare, let alone guarding two players at the same time, but the puzzle in all this is how Jay Triano didn’t opt to put a more capable body on him such as Ed Davis or Joey Dorsey. Even Amir Johnson, playing with 5 fouls would seemingly have been more efficacious.

The frantic finish to the game started with 57 seconds remaining. With the Raps down 110-107, Kleiza gets called for a 5 second violation – which at the time, seemed like the quickest 5 seconds in NBA history. If you’re like me, you’ve already watched the clip a few times, counting each second by the Mississippi. It was close. I won’t say whether or not it was the right call, but I will ask you this – Would that call have been made against Lebron James with the game on the line? We’ll leave it at that.

Andrea did eventually tie the game with a 3 pointer, only to see Felton’s game-winner cancel his effort out. I thought the last play call for Andrea could have been better coming out of the time-out, and perhaps Andrea could have just gone straight up and shot it over the much smaller Felton instead of trying to dribbling around him. But the reality is that Andrea gave it his all in this game.

Now, the Raptors will have to regroup and produce a collective effort from everyone as they look to avoid losing to the Nuggets on Friday and giving George Karl his 1000th win.