Now that was an exciting game. So many ups and downs. Tons of good plays and bad plays. Heroes and goats. Everything.
This is the second time ever that I have called something. I called Joe Carter’s home run the pitch before it happened. While I have absolutely no back up for tonight’s call, what I said to myself (and my MGD) was, “If MoPete can get a circus shot, we’ve got overtime.” Okay, I didn’t know it was going to be THAT GOOD of a circus shot, but I swear, that’s what I said. True, I say that in almost every game, but let’s not get that all tied up with what actually happened.
When you make that many circus shots, there has to be something to it. Seriously. You can’t just keep hitting those kinds of shots without having some sort of deal with God or something. And I’m not going to lie to you, for some reason, when I saw everyone celebrating (what took so long for the replay review?), I was jumping up and down too (almost woke up the kid), but when I saw Mo and Sam hugging after the game, I got teary. Man, the Raptors are getting me all emotional.
Anyway, on to the game. Another team effort tonight (until Bosh took over in OT, but more on that later). Six guys had AT LEAST 5 rebounds. Six guys! This is the Raptors we are talking about. I mean, even though over the last five games, they have led the league in rebounding (as Norma Wick pointed out), over the season, they have been dreadful. They managed to outrebound another team again. I don’t think it is any big insight that with better rebounding, they have been able to beat good teams while having some important pieces missing. Rebounding sets up your offence and is the most important part of your D. It all starts there. It’s the most difficult thing to do in the game.
Another great night from Juan Dixon. Now, does anybody who was complaining about him upsetting the flow of the Raps want to step up? If it weren’t for Juan tonight, no way does this game even stay close. Every time the Raptors needed a big shot, Juan nailed it. The one big miss he had, he was pissed, but managed to get it out of his mind, stay composed and calm down the stretch. That’s the sign of a professional. You have to be able to block things out and think about the next play.
Respect to TJ and Jose tonight. Jose’s shot was miserable, but his passing was crisp, hitting Bosh for ally-oops, finding guys for open looks, getting away with walks (hey, I put that as a sign that you’re good enough that you get one of those every once in a while from the ref…if you’re some punk, that’s an instant whistle). TJ also had a good night attacking. The Wizards couldn’t defend the penetration, which is why he kept going to it.
Coach was saying after the game how he thought TJ did a good job managing the game, but I also think it needs to be pointed out that he played a solid game against Arenas on D. Anyone can point to Gilbert’s 34 points, but 13 points of that were from the line. TJ held Gilbert to 9-29 from the floor and when he forced him inside, the Raptors provided good help in the middle. 5 turnovers tonight for TJ, but a couple of those were on misread plays (guys cutting one way, when TJ thought they were going another), so I won’t get on him too much tonight. Even Nash has a problem with that.
The Wizards should have salted this game away. Quickly, three things I always point out here that a team has to do to win. 1. Rebound. 2. Hold on to your luggage. 3. HIT YOUR FREE THROWS. The Wiz were 73% from the line and sorry, that just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to win big games. You nail a few more of those and the game is out of reach at the end. It is such a basic part of the game, but it is taken for granted. It is a skill that every player has been doing since they started playing. It’s not like it is a technique that a coach works with them on, trying to improve their game (like a drop step or something like that). It’s a free throw. Same distance your whole life. Rim is the same height. Same size. You miss those, you are giving away wins.
Speaking of giving away wins, I’m all for your star to get the rock at the end of the game, to put it in his hands to win or lose, but the situation in Washington is out of control. Arenas is starting to force A LOT of shots and is making some bad decisions. What exactly was he thinking driving for 2 with the game on the line and his team needing 3, also knowing that Bosh was lurking in the middle. When you have guys like Butler and Jamison around, sometimes being the key guy is using that as a decoy. You should want the ball, but you don’t always have to get it. I like that he always thinks he can score the big basket, all the great ones think that, but you have to realize that using your star power to benefit your teammates is important too. He’s still working on that. He needs to get over the whole “0” thing. Yeah, we get it. People/coaches didn’t think you’d amount to anything and now you’re a star. Great. Thanks for trying to reaffirm how you are “somebody” now, it helped the Raps win.
Okay, on a final note, let’s give it up for Gatorade Graham. Not only because he scored 16 and had 12 rebounds in just over 40 minutes, but because he was using that frame to knock guys around in there. Going for loose balls, fighting for position, all the while, managing his foul situation. He wasn’t out of control. He was just outworking guys. That is what he has to do night in and night out. That’s the kind of player he can be…and that’s a scary thought for Raptor opponents.
Now that was fun.