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On the surface, the past two losses from the Toronto Raptors (14-26) look similar. They both occurred in overtime, with both teams traipsing past the century mark along the way. But the road taken to reach these two results - the latest being a 108-101 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers - couldn't have been much different.
After Wednesday's game against Chicago saw Toronto rally from a 19-point deficit, Friday night saw the tables turned, as what was a 19-point edge of their own went up in smoke. An early run that saw the visitors lead by 17 points at the half could not be sustained, as this banged up, fatigued squad simply didn't have enough left to put forth the effort needed in the second half. But even after a 16-point turn-around in the third quarter, the Raptors' goose wasn't totally cooked until they unfathomably blew a four-point lead with 8.8 seconds to go, opening the door for a one-sided OT frame.
Philly's Jrue Holliday made up for a no-show in last week's clash in Toronto by dominating the Raptors to the tune of 33 points and 14 assists, including a game-tying jumper with 1.1 seconds left in regulation and all 12 of his team's points in overtime.
I probably haven't given sufficient due to the significant improvements made by Davis this season (is it just me, or does he have most of his best showings in losing efforts?). From an improved jumper to a more well-rounded game, Davis has arrived in his third NBA season - maybe not as a superstar, but as a quality big man. Friday offered a strong example of some of those improvements, as he came just four assists shy of a triple-double while standing out offensively (18 points on 8-15 shooting), on the glass (10 rebounds) and defensively (two blocks and several more altered).
The Bench Strikes Again
A bench unit that seems to be getting shorter and shorter was still productive for the Raps, outscoring the Sixers' reserves 51-21 despite sending just four guys out, to Philly's five. Kyle Lowry managed a double-double (11-11) despite shooting poorly (3-11) and turning the ball over five times, while Terrence Ross and Alan Anderson produced 18 points apiece. Ross, in particular, stood out, shooting 7-14 from the floor and 4-5 from three-point range while pulling down seven rebounds.
8.8 Seconds of Shame
The third quarter slide was almost forgivable. They had probably played above their true ability in the first half and still had control of the game as the seconds ticked down in the fourth. Then came those last 8.8 seconds, when all Toronto, armed with a four-point lead, had to do was keep Philly off the perimeter and protect the ball. The first part they managed to do, although it did lead to an easy tip-in opportunity for an alone-in-the-paint Spencer Hawes. Then, with Jose Calderon in-bounding and Davis wide open, Numero Ocho strangely opted to dish off to a pressed-against-the-sideline Anderson, who was promptly pushed out of bounds. Yes, there did seem to be an awful lot of contact that was left un-called, but the pass should never have been thrown to begin with. At that point, any Raptors fan knew what was coming next: a far-too-easy Holliday jumper to take away what appeared to be a sure win.
About That Big Man Depth...
It's tough to believe that its come to this for the Raptors - where Davis and Amir Johnson were each forced to venture north of the 40-minute mark for a team that, really, didn't have any other choice. Quincy Acy provided a decent 15 minutes, but he also picked up five quick fouls over that stretch. Aaron Gray, a healthy scratch after a poor showing against Chicago, will be hard-pressed to find an NBA contract for next season after really struggling to offer up even a handful of quality minutes. A major part of the problem lies beyond the team's control (the loss of Jonas Valanciunas has hurt, while losing Andrea Bargnani ... well, the loss of Valanciunas has hurt), but Friday night's game still stood in stark contrast to the early season optimism surrounding a deep front court.
- Seriously, has any team ever been victimized by two crucial late game calls in the same season that the league would later publicly admit were wrong?? Oh, the life of a Raptor fan!
The zoo that is the Lakers' annual visit to the ACC takes place on Sunday (1:00pm, TSN2). In a nutshell, that likely means a small army of Steve Nash supporters, those who adore Dwight Howard for his willingness to interact with the fans, members of Toronto's Spanish community ready to celebrate Calderon and Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant lovers, along with the usual cadre of Laker fans. Could be a busy one!
Prediction: Lakers 106, Raptors 96 (28-7 this season)