Words you probably wouldn’t have expected to hear from a Sixers fan before last night: “Man, we really could have used Sammy Dalembert in that game.”
Philly had nobody who could effectively cover Andrea Bargnani in a game where his switch was clearly in the “on” position — Spencer Hawes is too slow and Elton Brand is too short. And so Bargnani scored a season-high 30 points on 12-for-18 shooting while actually trying to rebound and grabbing seven boards in the process.
This was probably Bargnani’s best game so far this season, but it has to be said that he should drop 30 with ease on a team like this. Performances like this are not a revelation for diehard Raptors fans who have been following his career with exasperation. If anything, a display like last night’s is more of a frustrating reminder of what he could be capable of if he could consistently keep his head in the game.
This sequence late in the third quarter was when I realized that Bargnani could very well carry the team on his back to victory. First, he buries a turnaround jumper against overmatched Thaddeus Young. On the other end, he switches on a pick-and-roll to prevent an easy layup by Jrue Holiday and then jumps between two Sixers to grab a rebound, holding the ball high and swinging his elbows around like a Reggie.
With under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had the ball and were behind by a point — it was still anyone’s game. After Holiday misses a floated and the rebound gets tapped out to the arc, DeMar DeRozan grabs the ball and is off to the races with Sonny Weems. DeRozan was a non-entity last night from a scoring perspective with just four points, but he finished with a career-high five assists (he hadn’t dropped more than three dimes in any of his 88 career games) and his last one really counted as he dished to Weems at just the right moment for an easy layup to increase their lead to three points.
On the subject of Weems, it’s getting tougher for doubters to continue to proclaim his recent emergence as a fluke. With his career-high 25 points last night on 10-for-18 shooting, he’s averaging 17 points on 59 percent shooting over his last six games — and he’s scored in double figures and made over 50 percent of his shots in all six games. Coming out of a time out with 49 seconds on the clock and the Raptors up by three, it appears that Jay Triano drew up this play for Weems which resulted in a trip to the free throw line. Could it be that the Raptors have a guy to trust the ball with in late-game situations, after all?
Finally, since I ripped Reggie Evans yesterday for his tendency to gamble unwisely on defence, it’s only fair that I give him dap today for this game-clinching steal on the Sixers’ subsequent possession.
A win over the Sixers is certainly nothing to get overly excited about, but they did it on the road on the second of back-to-back games and even the sourest cynic among Raptors fans has to feel a glimmer of hope about the emerging mini-stardom of “Money” Weems. Remember how he was an throw-in along with the trade that sent Carlos Delfino and Roko-Leni Ukic to Milwaukee for Amir Johnson? Could Weems prove to be the best player of the lot? It’s too early to tell, but my fantasy team “Roko-Leni Picture Show” is benefiting greatly from Sonny’s scoring surge.