It was a big and imposing week for the Raptors. Four games against four good teams heading into the All-Star break. Win and they can keep the momentum they've had and, hopefully, roll on into the playoffs. But if they struggled doubts could begin to creep in. Are we really this good? Why can't we beat the good teams? Long story short, it was a very big test for the Raptors and they came through with flying colors.
RAPTORS 96 over LAKERS 92
The first part of the test for the Raptors was the suddenly much improved Lakers. Kobe is playing better team basketball, and Andrew Bynum is emerging as a rare true center in the NBA. The Lakers were coming in off a beat down style loss to the Pistons, so the game could go one of two ways. Either they come out strong and determined, or flat and depressed.
The Lakers chose the latter, but so to did the Raptors. I had wondered what would happen when the Raptors finally switched back to T.J. starting, Jose coming off the bench, and this was the game. They came out completely flat, took too many jumpers and scored 16 points in the 1st quarter. The Raptors seemed to find their way after that, and had a 9 point lead when Ford came in for Calderon in the 4th. That lead evaporated quickly, the game got close, but the Raptors pulled it out down the stretch.
PISTONS 98 over RAPTORS 92
This was a rare Saturday night Raptors game, which translated into me not seeing it because I was "busy". It was a tough game for the Raptors, a back to backer, on the road, against probably the best team in the East. If they won this one they could definitely consider themselves among the leagues elite. But in losing as closely they did the Raps shouldn't really get too down. Detroit is a great team, rested, at home, and the Raps took them to the wire.
Looking at the stats, Rasheed Wallace had a great game (28 and 7) while Bosh struggled (5-15 FG's). The Pistons were quoted as saying that they used their veteran sense to help them pull out the win at the end. Hopefully in 2-3 years we'll hear the Raptors saying the same thing after winning a game after pulling out a win in the 4th.
RAPTORS 112 over BULLS 111
This was an interesting game for me to watch. I had taped the game, knowing I was going out, but while out I accidently saw the score. I still watched the game the next day, but knowing that the Raptors would win let me focus less on cheering and more on just watching parts of the game. Not that I learned anything especially interesting, it was just a different way to watch.
The Raptors always struggle against the Bulls, I can't find the number but I think its something like 15 in a row that the Bulls have won coming in to this one. But tonight was a different story, tonight the Raptors played their quality basketball, and tonight when it came down to it the Raptors pulled out the victory. All this in while Luol Deng and Ben Gordon put on an absolute clinic on the way to play midrange basketball (they combined for 56 points with only 2 3's). All this despite T.J., again, struggling down the stretch in the 4th (see the Laker game and probably the Piston game too) blowing a 12 point lead. It was a win against a good team, and it guaranteed a split on the 4 tough games before the All-Star break.
RAPTORS 120 over NETS 109
Now that we got to the game, this Nets game no longer looked nearly as tough as it had earlier in the week. Jason Kidd went down with back problems, and with Richard Jefferson already out it left Vince as the only 1 of the big 3 playing. The Raptors doubled Vince, and made the other Nets try to beat them. For a while it looked like they'd make a game of it with Bostjan Nachbar and Eddie House making seemingly every shot they took, but they would slow down and the Raptors won it with ease.
Offensively the Raptors played the fantastic, beautiful team basketball that they've been showing glimpses of lately. The ball moved where it's supposed to, they made the open shots, and everyone was involved. Seven players finished in double figures, including 6 with 15+. Defensively they could have done a better job on Nachbar/House, but overall they put the game away and left for the break knowing they had just beat down their closest competitor in the Atlantic.
- Enough with the MVP chants for Bosh. I love Chris Bosh, but he's not an MVP calibre player yet and there's nothing wrong with that. It just feels stupid to hear fans cheering for an award we don't deserve.
- The Raptors held Kobe to 56 points less than the last time he was in Toronto.
- The Bulls just need a big who can give them something on the offensive end to be really good.
- There is nothing more fun as a Raptors fan, than watching Vince Carter sulk around as he loses a game.