“For this relief, much thanks” Hamlet, W. Shakespeare
The Raptors proved to their opponents, to their increasingly desperate fans, & to themselves, that they could grind out a victory. In a taut game (11 lead changes & 8 ties), the Raps were the beneficiaries at game’s end of a shot that didn’t fall, & a pair of free throws that did. Maybe there was something in the water – Andrea Bargnani was invisible on offence, but played tight D when most needed. The Raps’ 6-game losing streak is history, mercifully.
The Raps were neck & neck with the Suns early, until hitting one of their patented shooting slumps. On the other end, the Suns were slashing through the paint for easy buckets, & held a 10-point lead. DeMar DeRozan brought his team back to within 6, which was flattering. The second quarter featured some fine shooting from distance, including newbie Mikael Pietrus’ first 3-ball. Kyle Lowry contributed a huge one at the buzzer, & the difference was a point.
This game was won by the second unit, which energized a team looking uninterested. Amir Johnson scored from inside & out on his way to 16 points, while Jose Calderon contributed 13 point & 9 assists. He was perfect on 3 shots from distance. Ed Davis pulled down 8 boards. Lowry shot well, but had the same number of turnovers (2) as assists. AB, perhaps still hobbled from his ankle injury, had 1 bucket on 4 attempts, but did grab the rebound off Shannon Brown’s game-tying attempt, & buried the FTs to ice the game after being fouled. DeRozan led all scorers with 23 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, & handed out 4 assists. The young man is clearly emerging as a borderline All-Star. Linas Kleiza, given yet another opportunity to grab the Small Forward role, played half the minutes, & scored fewer points, than Pietrus, who joined the Raps on game day.
The tired Suns played very well, roaring back from a 9-point deficit early in the Q4 to give themselves a chance to play overtime. Brown’s layup rolled off, which might be the first big break the Raps have enjoyed this season. Jared Dudley missed but 1 shot on his way to 14 points, which tied with Marcin Gortat & Brown for team high.
Toronto has the weekend to rest their banged-up bodies, before taking on the Nuggets in Denver Monday night, the first of 5 straight roadies.