The Toronto Raptors’ season ended yesterday, when a dogged comeback fell one point short. The Raps had last possession, following two solid plays by Terrence Ross. One was a driving layup, then TRoss tipped and intercepted a Brooklyn Nets pass, and threw the ball off Paul Pierce while falling – Toronto ball. With just over 6 seconds remaining, the Raps in-bounded the ball to Kyle Lowry, who dribbled furiously into the paint but had his shot blocked by Pierce as the buzzer sounded. A sellout Air Canada Centre crowd was stunned into silence.
The Raps started this game with energy and led by a pair at the end of Q1, but there were troubling signs. While seeing Amir Johnson carve up the Nets inside was a wonderful surprise, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Lowry had only 2 baskets among them. The Raps’ offense simply doesn’t function without their scoring, and it also chokes and sputters when long balls aren’t going in. Our guys missed all 3 attempts. The second quarter was a nightmare, as the Nets were taking and making shots from everywhere. An 11-0 Brooklyn run mid-quarter finally ended on a John Salmons 3-ball, but the damage was done. A 4-point had become a 7-point deficit. Marcus Thornton emerged from bench obscurity to score 10 points, including both tries from beyond the arc. He also pulled down 5 of the Nets’ 10 rebounds, and should receive an Unsung Hero award from his teammates. Joe Johnson was proving hard to stop (as he was all series) but was only getting started. The Nets led by 8 at halftime, a margin which the Raps would never overcome. Our Johnson had 3 fouls, but had 18 points and 6 boards.
The third quarter was a saw-off, although some good things happened. JV finally got on the scoresheet, and DeMar beat the buzzer with a corner 3-ball. However, Amir was charged with 2 more fouls, and didn’t score. TRoss continued his frustrating series, making but 1 of 5 shots.
The fourth quarter provided little hope for a serious run at Brooklyn’s lead, which several times extended to 11 point. Then Lowry drained a 3-ball on a pass from Chuck Hayes(!), Garnett was charged with a technical for bumping Lowry, and DeRozan drained a tough deuce before their Johnson scored 5 straight. Following another DeRozan basket, the key play of the game occurred. Lowry stepped in front of a driving Deron Williams, who jumped right into our (stationary) man’s chest – and Kyle was called for blocking. I’m hard-pressed to recall a worse call at such a critical juncture. DeMar was called for a charge (and was T-ed for protesting) the next time down the floor, after making the shot. While I think the call was right, it was serious salt in the wound for Raps’ supporters, and raised the ACC’s volume level to deafening. But our guys wouldn’t quit. A bunch of made free throws, and a Lowry lay-up later, the stage was set for Ross’ moment.
My apologies, faithful readers, for the tardiness of this missive. I was at the game, and have been feeling considerable pain since it ended, so abruptly and so sadly. Please stay with us at Raptors Rapture. Over the next few weeks we take a look back at an astonishing season, hand out some Report Cards, get ready for the draft, look at free agents, consider how to re-sign Kyle Lowry, look at salary cap issues, etc.
Comments always welcome.