Do you remember when ...
We’re standing in the hallway outside the locker room in the United Center last night and while there was a large measure of happiness at what had transpired, I couldn’t help but get the feeling the over-riding emotion was anger.
As in, what if this had happened four weeks ago? What if Bosh and Marion and Calderon had figured it out earlier? What if they had made the trade a month before they did? Where would they be? Well, looking at the way the Eastern Conference playoff dregs (Chicago, Philly and Detroit come leaping to mind) the Raptors could make a very valid claim to being the fifth-best team in the conference.
But their stinky play in the middle of the season, the lack of depth and experience on the bench, killed them and rendered the 9-4 finish to a “what if” situation.
Okay, all games are not created equal. If they were, none would stand out over the course of the season and we all know that’s not true.
After combing the catacombs of my mind, and looking over various pieces of scrap paper I’ve accumulated since last Halloween, here are three bitter losses and three significant wins in what can be a trip down memory lane.
Raptors 112, Warriors 108 (OT)
Oh yeah, baby, this was going to be some season. Second win to open the season, a bit of a thriller against the wacky Warriors and their rather odd style of play and the new-look Raptors give the home folks something to cheer about.
It looks like Chris Bosh, who has 31 and nine and I think heard the first faint M-V-P chants, is going to get along quite nicely with Jermaine O’Neal, who doesn’t look entirely out of place at all.
Jose gets 13 assists and, I swear, the optimism was off the charts.
And some of the fans looked really cute in their costumes.
Raptors 107, Kings 101
This whole Bosh-O’Neal thing really was something to watch. The sickening feeling that it was never really going to work had been around for a couple of weeks because the offence wasn’t flowing, Bargnani wasn’t doing much and the two bigs were just getting by.
And then, presto! They go to Sacramento right after Christmas, O’Neal has 36 and nine, Bosh has 13 and 7 despite serious foul trouble and they left the archaic Arco Arena thinking this might have been the breakthrough game of the year.
But it was nice to dream.
Raptors 99, Magic 95
Sure, the season was probably over by that point but they didn’t think that at all. (Funny about athletes, they really don’t think it’s ever over until it’s over).
But I digress.
It was all well and good that they had beaten such minnows as the Clippers (and minnow really is over-stating it with them) and Milwaukee and those pesky Thunders but to go into Orlando against a really good team and come up with a late-season road win was pretty gratifying.
It made the next two days off in the sunny south a little easier to take. (That’s for all ones in the sunny south, that is; some of us were stuck back in the bracing cold snap of home. But I digress).
Nets 129, Raptors 127 (OT)
|THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|Seems like just yesterday we were throwing lamps at our TVs after this.|
You know how so many of you hate Vince Carter?
Think how much worse that hate is because of what he did that night at the Air Canada Centre.
Goofy three-point dagger from about 30 feet to tie it at the end of regulation and then the dunk at the overtime buzzer to win the game.
Oh yeah, you folks were over the (Jamario) Moon with your vitriol that night after the one time love of your lives went beserk.
Funny thing is, this might have been the game that really started Sam Mitchell on the slippery slope to unemployment; it’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to lose at home after blowing an 18-point lead to Vince Freaking Carter.
Thunder 91, Raptors 83
Okay, there were more than a few road spit-ups that it should be easy to pick out three or four as absolute rock bottom moments, right?
Maybe there is, but few stand out more than this gag job against a Thunder team that was like 1-1,200 at time (okay, 2-24 or something but you get my drift).
And what made it even worse? The retirement, at halftime, of Mr. O’Neal, who went back to the locker room with some kind of sore shoulder while his defenceless teammates were left to watch Durant et al run circles around them.
The injury certainly wasn’t serious. Mr. O’Neal cheated death and played the very next night in San Antonio.
Knicks 127, Raptors 97
Everybody’s all a’twitter going into the game because it’s relatively big, against a team they’re chasing at time when making a move up the standings was actually a possibility, or at least we thought it was.
So, they go into a “statement” game and the “statement” they make is thus: We give up!
The Knicks hung 42 on them in the first quarter, led by 20 and absolutely beat them into submission. The Raptors were shell-shocked from the time they were down 9-0, I think it was, and the total capitulation was shocking.
And another indignity against a body.
So there you have it, some highs, some lows, some waltzes down memory lane. It’s been a bumpy waltz, for sure.
Oh, there’s this:
Reasons Why I Often Hate Air Canada With The White Hot Intensity Of 1,000 Suns, Vol. Too Many To Count.
Arrive at O’Hare about 5:15 this morning, all three hours of sleep having me fresh as a freaking daisy, to find that the 7 a.m. flight had been cancelled. Last night. At 5 p.m.!
With an increasing level of anger and incredulity, asked the lovely woman why in the world Air Canada Elite services might not have, you know, CALLED ME! Or E-MAILED ME! Or sent a stinky carrier pigeon or something, since they’ve done it in the past
“Well, sir, it says here they couldn’t reach you.”
If there was a little bubble over her head, it would have said:
“Well, sir, it says here they couldn’t reach you because they didn’t try because customers are a mere inconvenience to Air Canada.”
Flights over for now.
Here’s the funny thing about last night’s game.
There were 20,000 or so dejected fans in the building, a whole raft of bitter Bulls people in the locker room and front office and a half dozen or so entirely happy grunt-types who now get to spend time in Boston rather than in Orlando.
Trust me, that’s making at least a few writers extremely happy.
And speaking of Chicago writers, The One And Only K.C. Johnson, scribbler to the stars, chronicled the events of last eve thusly.
One last reminder, I’m going to be around these parts about 1 p.m. today to answer the questions that are burning in the back of your mind. Feel free to join in the fun and frivolity but if anyone dares breathe the words Air Canada, we have ways of tracking IP addresses and will send a plague of locusts your way. Honest. We will.