For one night, at least, a feel-good story
Well, that was totally unexpected, wasn’t it?
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|Raptors snuck out the back door with a win after this one.|
Down four to the Spurs with a minute left, three starters on the bench, their well-documented late-game failings fresh in everyone’s mind and they win? If you saw that coming, send me a note with some lottery numbers, please.
But it was a big win over a good team and certainly not something we see around these parts very often. In fact, both of the wins this week have included some good late-game play and while it’s not even remotely close to time to suggest they’ve turned any corner, it has made the last 48 hours or so much easier for many of you to take, I imagine.
So now they toddle off into the break feeling pretty good about themselves and we toddle off into the break wondering if the next 27 games might be worth watching closely.
But first …
Action: Ukic’s threes.
Reaction: With some help from his friend.
Well, maybe not.
We give you Shecky Greene, er, Jason Kapono, on how he’s transforming Roko Ukic into a deadly three-point shooter with some veteran advice:
“His three-point tip is to pass the ball to me. But he always has the excuse that I’m covered, which I don’t think I am.”
All hail the Hawks!!!
Now, not the Atlanta Hawks, no one cares about them.
The Hawthorn Hawks went to 2-1 on the season by beating the dastardly Greenglade Somethingorothers 28-23.
Super Son was held scoreless (I believe he was being guarded by a 12-year-old Gary Payton clone) but everyone had fun.
Action: A play that works
Reaction: No, not the game-winner
I bet not many saw this and it’s an indictment of them that I even noticed it but …
With just about two minutes left in the third, Raps have the ball out of bounds under the Spurs basket. First Parker curls off a screen and cuts through the lane along the baseline, occupying the attention of a couple of defenders. Then Kapono takes the exact same path, there’s no one to guard him, he actually gets the ball and makes a layup.
Rudimentary basketball indeed, grade school stuff, but Jay yelled and pumped his fist, the players looked a bit surprised that something worked so well and it was one of those “why can’t they run that all the time” moments.
Of course, fast forward to the dying seconds of the fourth quarter when they can’t get the ball in at midcourt and have to blow what could have been a crucial timeout and you see that celebrating an easy basket off an out-of-bounds play might have been the right reaction.
Gotta love Matt Bonner
He was wandering around the bowels of the Air Canada Centre last night, shaking hands and kissing babies and being Matt, and also toting the new Bonner shoe that’s being mass produced as we speak.
Looks like a normal, every day, run-of-the-mill shoe to me (a bit big, but that’s what you’d expect) except for one thing. Written along the side panel, large enough for everyone to see is:
Live Free Or Die.
You can take the boy out of New Hampshire, but you can’t take the New Hampshire out of the boy.
The memory banks were working overtime for a few of you – and me, actually – for this kind of stuff:
Q: Doug, this game brought back memories of one years ago, when Wince got hurt and the Raps beat the Spurs right around the all star break helped by no other than Yogi Stewart. Do you recall the date for that historical event?
Parminder B, Brampton
A: Like it was yesterday. Well, not exactly, but I do vaguely recall it.
It was Feb. 7, 2002, the game before the all-star break, You Know Who did get hurt (and for once he didn’t cheat death and come back into the game; he actually had to blow off the all-star festivities in Philly that weekend because of “jumper’s knee”) and Toronto won 80-74 in overtime. Not sure Yogi had a huge night, he played 13 minutes with four points and two rebounds (those might have been single-game highs for his time in Toronto now that I think of it) but it was a pretty cool night.
Memo to Raps: Schedule Spurs the night before the break every year and hype it as Guaranteed Win Night.
In San Antonio, they awoke to read this about the night.
Action: Roko’s game-winner
Reaction: Great call?
I bring this up to further my point that it’s more players than coaches.
The lauding of Roko for making that final basket, the spin move on Parker and shot over the helping Duncan, is all well and good and the play worked great.
Except that wasn’t the play.
Said the coach:
“The play got busted and we couldn’t make the pass to where we wanted to and he just did a great job.”
So no matter how it turned out, it wasn’t designed, just like a lot of last second-plays tend to be improvised if a team defends well.
You know what? If that was Jermaine O’Neal’s last game as a Raptor – and while I have nothing concrete to base it on, I believe it was – he went out giving them just what he was supposed to.
Rebounding, shot-blocking and defence.
He had 10 boards and six blocks and his help defence on the Ginobili drive that missed and set up Ukic’s game-winner was exceptional.
A JO shooting question:
Q: Hey Doug, I know players don't like to use the backboard anymore (except Tim Duncan, what does that say?), but don't you think JO could average like 6 points a game higher if he'd just bank some in? All these straight on 5 footers left a foot short are painful to watch.
Matt S, Toronto
A: I couldn’t make a shot to save my soul for most of my (un)illustrious career but I do know one of the hardest shots to make is a dead-on bank shot. Now, I agree it’s a lost art and a great shot to perfect but I think O’Neal’s playing to his strength trying to make five-footers in the lane.