The Toronto Raptors broke the back-to-back curse tonight in the Mecca of Sports with what can only be described as “ball“. The Raps seemed to continually will themselves to victory. Down 16 in the first half, the Raptors used their second unit to get back into the game. In the second half, after surrendering a 5pt lead in the last three minutes of the game, the Raptors used smart offensive sets and phenomenal defense to snatch a win from the Knicks. The Raptors had no business winning this game, but Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh both had double doubles, and two huge baskets at the end of the game, to steal the win. The Raptors, not known for their defense, finished the game off with a charge. The most exciting charge I have seen all season.
The Zan for Three (plus the foul)
Return of the Mack
Hedo Turkoglu picked an incredible time to pull up his socks. He has been a magnet for criticism even in the midst of a winning streak. Tonight he did everything. He ran the offense, shot the ball well, rebounded, and was at the rim for dunks and put backs that resulted in a key bucket down the stretch. Andrea Bargnani was struggling and the Raps needed Hedo to step up. He provided them with energy and leadership when they needed it the most. Let’s hope the real Hedo has finally arrived. He will be a key to the Raptors second half fortunes.
When you’re on the second night of a back-to-back and your starters are tired, you need your bench to step up. Tonight Antoine Wright, Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson provided that extra bit of energy that helped the Raptors get over the hump and battle back. The Raptors second unit is decidedly better than most second units in the NBA. It’s something that’s beginning to set the Raptors apart from the “pretenders” in the Eastern Conference. Jose is a starting point guard playing against other teams’ secondary point guards. This is an advantage that’s helping the Raptors abuse match ups and win ball games.
The hussle and intensity on defense that Amir Johnson and Antoine Wright have been bringing have allowed Triano the opportunity to make defensive switches that shut down offensive players on opposing teams. Tonight Harrington had all kinds of trouble. Kudos to the coach for his use of the bench.
Down the stretch the Raptors almost gave the game back to New York. Harrington hit a huge shot that seemed to be the daggar. The Raptors came back with good looks at the basket. Bosh had a driving layup, Hedo had a put back on a missed shot and Jack scored a floater in the lane. In between those scoring plays the Raptors had key defensive stops. The Raptors then finished the game with Jack taking a charge. These are the plays of a playoff ready team.
A new identity is forming in Toronto. This team is tough as nails with different players contributing each night. They are stepping up in the clutch, refusing to lose and let games slip away. A characteristic of elite NBA teams.
Zan of the Game
Ball! His biggest game of the season at exactly the right time. A double double and key plays at the end of the game. He looked confident and did not let his early shooting trouble stop him from performing. With the team on the second night of a back to back, Hedo picked the right time to really step it up. Hedo also followed his impressive performance with, what could be, the most awkward interview in a long time. When asked what was different about his game by Jack Armstrong, Hedo replied simply with: “Ball”. Not sure what that means…but let’s hope it continues. I’ve got nothing else to say.
Not Zan of the Game
Before you grab your shirt and dance across the MSG floor, make sure the game is out of reach. You followed your “victory dance” by blowing a five point lead and commiting an offensive foul to end the game. Not exactly the finish you had in mind, huh?
Plus the Foul
Congratulations to Chris Bosh on becoming, once again, an All Star. You are more than deserving of the honour and, really, should be starting. You’ve had more double-doubles than Tim Hortons this year and you are the backbone of the franchise. Well done, Mr. Bosh.
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The Zan Tabak Herald