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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 21.03.11
Raptors redeem themselves with Thunder-ous win
Still lots of upside to Bargnani
In a season of mounting losses, missed opportunities and moments of embarrassment, the Raptors redeemed themselves.
One win doesn’t make a season, but it sure does make a daunting five-game road trip a lot more palatable and less painful.
And regardless of what happens Monday night in Denver or later in Phoenix or games against the Warriors and Clippers, this trip is already assured of being a success.
All it took was an unlikely 95-93 win over the red-hot Thunder, a win that ended Toronto’s ugly road misery, a game that saw Leandro Barbosa draw defenders to the perimeter and make a perfect pass to a rolling Amir Johnson, who made the game-winning bucket with 1.4 seconds left.
There still was plenty of time for the Thunder to save face and atone for a night the hosts clearly took for granted.
If OKC is to be taken as a serious post-season threat, Kevin Durant has to come up big in late-game moments, one of the few warts on this scoring machine’s resume.
His shot, which was contested by James Johnson, wouldn’t drop and OKC saw a season-high six-game win streak disappear with it.
For Toronto, it was the first time since early December that it had posted back-to-back wins.
Coincidentally, the last time the Raptors managed this minor feat it was in wins against Washington and the Thunder, the two opponents Toronto just happened to beat.
Last-second layup gives Raptors surprise win over Thunder
When he’s not settling for jumpers, when he’s applying pressure on defences by putting the ball on the floor and playing even token defence, Andrea Bargnani can be a presence.
Whether he’ll ever shed the burden of being the NBA’s first overall pick is an issue that may never get silenced, but he’s beginning to silence his critics and opposing coaches have certainly taken notice of Bargnani.
Given his non-American background and shot-happy nature, comparisons with Dirk Nowitzki have become inevitable, if not unavoidable.
The Dallas Mavs star has won an NBA MVP title and led his team to an appearance in the league final.
Bargnani is far from a finished product, but in the absence of Chris Bosh the Raptors have made Bargnani their first option on offence.
“Absolutely,” OKC Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said when asked by reporters if he sees any similarities between Bargnani and Nowitzki, two seven-footers. “He (Bargnani) has a good first step. He scores around the basket. He makes threes. He’s a very good player.
“We treat him as one of the best shooting forwards in the league. He has one of the best shot fakes in the game and he always seems to get guys on it.”
Raptors jolt Thunder, end skid
All season long, through all the losses, all the hard times and all the injuries, Raptors head coach Jay Triano has said he wants tangible rewards for his team.
He wants to see his players get something other than moral victories. He wants them to get something other than pats on the back and encouragement that things are moving in the right direction.
He got it on Sunday night.
With flawless execution of two crucial offensive possessions and the best individual defence a Raptor has played in a very long time, Triano’s Raptors walked out of the Oklahoma City Arena with the most unlikely of things:
A win over the young, talented, deep Thunder.
Amir Johnson’s layup with 1.4 seconds left — off a great set run by Leandro Barbosa — propelled Toronto to its first road win since Jan. 5, a 95-93 victory that halts a 14-game road losing streak.
Raptors stun Thunder in rare road win
The Raptors went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter after Oklahoma City had tied the game at 48. With the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed on the bench for much of the quarter with foul trouble, Bargnani was 3-for-6 from the floor and added four more points from the line during the third.
He also anchored Toronto's post defence, which held Durant to 0-for-7 shooting in the third. James Johnson guarded Durant for most of the game and Toronto coach Jay Triano praised his effort in his first game against Durant this season.
“If there's a game ball, it's for James Johnson and the work he did on Kevin Durant,” Triano said. “Kevin Durant had very few easy looks.”
Triano said before the game he wanted to slow the game down and limit Oklahoma City's transition points. His team did just that, holding the Thunder to 10 fast-break points, including six through the first three quarters.
“That set the tone,” Triano said. “We got back and stopped their penetration. This team excels and their confidence grows.”
Oklahoma City used an 8-2 run early in the fourth quarter to pull within four. Then, trailing by six with 6:28 to go, the Thunder went on a 9-2 run to take the lead. It was punctuated by Serge Ibaka's put-back dunk of Russell Westbrook's miss with 2:50 to go.
Raptors Game day
It seemed impossible. The Toronto Raptors could not, it would seem, snap a morethan-two-month losing streak on the road while visiting one of the Western Conference's best teams.
And yet it was possible. The Raptors were worthy adversaries in an intense game, eventually claiming a 95-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Toronto had lost 13 straight games away from home.
The Raptors were in control for most of the game, but Oklahoma City took the lead as the fourth quarter progressed. But, aided by three misses from the free-throw line down the stretch from Thunder centre Kendrick Perkins, they had enough to thwart off the Oklahoma City effort.
Leandro Barbosa had 19 points off of the bench, including a three-pointer that tied the game with 39 seconds left in the game. Following a miss from Russell Westbrook, Barbosa then set up Amir Johnson for a go-ahead hook shot with 1.4 seconds left. Kevin Durant missed a desperation shot at the buzzer as the Raptors escaped.
Of the Thunder's rich crop of lottery draft picks, it was the least heralded of the team's young stars who hurt the Raptors the most. James Harden, pushed into a bigger scoring role since Oklahoma City traded Jeff Green for Perkins, had 23 points for the Thunder. The third pick in 2009's draft was essential as the Thunder made a close game out of what was a 10-point Raptors lead after three quarters.
Raptors snap Thunder's six-game win streak
Who's hot? We saw a different side of Andrea Bargnani against Washington on Friday, when he went to the free-throw line a career-high 18 times.
Who's not? In part because of the return of Reggie Evans, Ed Davis has just four points and nine rebounds over his last two games.
Who's hot? Danilo Gallinari is averaging 20 points per game over his last two contests, based on 23 trips to the freethrow line.
Who's not? A left hamstring strain kept Aaron Afflalo to nine minutes on Saturday. The night before, he shot just 2-for-11 in Orlando.
Denver vs. Toronto
The Toronto Raptors, with the fifth-worst record in the NBA, completed their stunning two-game season sweep over OKC with a 95-93 victory Sunday night before a sellout crowd of 18,203 inside Oklahoma City Arena.
"Tough loss tonight," Brooks said, shaking his head after his team lost for just the second time in its last 11 starts.
The Thunder (45-24) came in riding a season-high six-game winning streak while the Raptors (20-49) were on a 14-game road losing streak.
Toronto routed the Thunder at home 111-99 on Dec. 3 and had gone just 11-38 between games against the Thunder. Ten percent of the Raptors' victories this season have been compliments of OKC, and the teams only played twice.
The Thunder also drops to 4-9 on Sundays this season.
The game had 17 lead changes and eight ties, but neither team shot well. Toronto misfired at 43.2 percent and OKC at 40.0 percent.
Raptors reserve guard Leandro Barbosa tied the game at 93 on a wide-open 3-pointer with 38.5 seconds left.
Barbosa taking a 3-pointer seemed like the obvious game plan. He finished with 19 points in just 14 minutes off the bench, shooting 7 for 10 from the field and 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
"When you're up three, the last thing you want to do is give them a wide-open look," Brooks said. "That was a great-executed play on their part. We didn't do a good enough job covering that."
Amir Johnson hit a 5-foot baby hook over Kevin Durant with 1.4 seconds left for the game-winner.
Following a successful stretch, the Denver Nuggets had trouble with two of the Eastern Conference's best clubs. They might have a better result against one of the East's worst teams.
While attempting to maintain their playoff position, the Nuggets will try to continue their dominance of the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Denver (41-29) had won 10 of 12 and the first two of a four-game road trip before it played against Orlando on Friday. The Nuggets fell 85-82 in that game on a 3-pointer as time expired and followed with a 103-98 loss the next evening to Southeast Division-leading Miami.
In that defeat, Denver couldn't contain Heat All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who combined for 83 points.
The Nuggets were also playing without guard Raymond Felton, who sat out with a sprained left ankle.
"I felt we were trying to search for our personality rather than knowing our personality," coach George Karl said. "When you are playing a team and their best players are having great games, you are just searching for too many answers."
Felton is expected to miss Monday's game, and fellow guard Arron Afflalo might also be out after re-aggravating a strained left hamstring Saturday.
If recent history is an indication, Denver might not have a problem overcoming those two absences. The Nuggets have won 12 of 13 over the Raptors (20-49) - including seven in a row - and six straight meetings at the Pepsi Center.
They recorded a 123-116 victory - Karl's 1,000th as an NBA coach - on Dec. 10 in Toronto as Al Harrington scored a season-high 31 points and Nene added 26. Harrington hasn't played the past two games for unspecified reasons but his 5.1-point average in his previous 12 contests might be a factor.
If he plays Monday, Harrington will face a Raptors team that's searching for its third straight win following a 5-25 stretch. After his team earned a 116-107 win over Washington on Friday, Amir Johnson made a layup with 1.4 seconds left in Sunday's 95-93 victory over Oklahoma City, the opener of a five-game trip.