Sonny Weems

The thing about NBA recap stories is that their narratives are driven mostly by the end result. This seems obvious and sensible, but many games are decided by a handful of plays that would have changed the ultimate outcome if they had turned out differently.

For example, if Paul Pierce made this shot with the clock running out yesterday, we wouldn’t be talking about the Raptors hanging tough to beat the mighty Celtics, we’d be lamenting how the Raptors blew a 12-point lead because they couldn’t score more than a single point over a six-minute span in the fourth quarter.

To be fair, DeMar DeRozan defended Pierce about as well as anyone could be expected to, but you have to know that Pierce will make that shot at least one out of every three tries. Of course, the reason that Pierce and the Celtics were even put in that position was that the officials didn’t call Leandro Barbosa’s foul on Ray Allen that caused him to turn the ball over with the Raptors trailing by a point late in the game. The Raptors took advantage when Amir Johnson was fouled and hit two free throws to give Toronto the lead with 2.7 seconds left.

Before I get to the non-call, we should give props to Amir Johnson not only for making the clutch free throws but for his best performance of the season, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Nine of those points came at the free throw line and he’s currently ranked 11th in the NBA with a 90.2 percent success rate from the charity stripe. Considering that he was 66 percent from the line over five NBA seasons before this one, it’s obvious he’s been putting in work on that part of his game.

(Incredibly random but fun sidenote: Only two players in NBA history have played at least 277 minutes in a season while shooting at least 60 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line: Johnson so far this season and Jeff Pendergraph last season with the Blazers.)

Anyway, back to the crucial non-call. I’ve slowed down the replay so it’s abundantly clear that the officials blew this one. If Ray Allen got the free throws he deserved here, it’s a safe bet the Celtics would have won this game.

Barbosa clearly hit Allen on the elbow on that play. Considering that the Raptors were obviously going for the foul there, I’m not entirely sure how they missed this. As a Raptors fan, I’m certainly not complaining. But let’s not pretend that this wasn’t an egregious screw job by the refs. This win was a gift that I’m more than happy to accept due to my dislike of the Celtics and many of their fans.

Speaking of gifts, the ongoing excellence of Sonny Weems is the gift that keeps on giving. With his 16-point performance yesterday, that makes eight straight games he’s scored in double figures. It seems as though that wing player who can create his own shot that we’ve craved has been right under our noses. Here’s Weems scoring with ease on a nice play drawn up out of a timeout. Worth noting: This play immediately preceded the critical Ray Allen “turnover”.

Triano gets a lot of the credit for that play, but Weems gets all the credit for this second-quarter play where he beat Ray Allen off a nice crossover and finished with authority. Not that Allen is an elite defender, but it’s still extremely exciting to see Weems’ new confidence and ability to make plays like this.

While I don’t have any video evidence, I have to recognize Andrea Bargnani’s 29-point performance — particularly since he went to the free throw line a career-high 13 times. When I expressed doubts before this season about his ability to be a legitimate first option on offence, one of my main complaints was that he didn’t get to the free throw line enough. Bargnani was aggressive while playing within the flow of the game yesterday, and with his third game in a row scoring at least 26 points he’s serving notice that he wants to be “the man” for the Raptors — on the offensive end, anyway.

Whether or not the Raptors “deserved” this win and regardless of how much Rajon Rondo’s absence hurt the Celtics, that’s three in a row for Toronto and they’re suddenly right in that middle of the Eastern Conference’s “sidestage of suck” that is currently headlined by the sixth-place Indiana Pacers and their 5-6 record. At 5-9, the Raptors are 1 1/2 games behind the Pacers and only a game behind the Knicks and Cavs for seventh place. So much for “Tank Nation”, I guess.

Comments (17)

  1. Bosh never scored 29 against KG and the Celtics. It pleases me to no end that Bargnani did.

    Also: playoffs?

  2. Navin: The playoffs suddenly seem like a legitimately realistic, somewhat terrifying possibility for the Raptors in an Eastern Conference that appears to be worse than I anticipated. I think the Bucks will eventually settle into that sixth seed, but the seventh and eighth seeds appear well within reach of the Raptors if guys like Bargnani and Weems continue to play at their current levels. That treadmill the Raptors have been running on since 2007 is proving to be more durable than I could have imagined.

  3. Bosh’s struggles against the Celtics have been a tad over exaggerated by Raptor fans. In 3 games against them last season, Bosh averaged 25.3 ppg on .644 shooting and 11.7 rpg, including a 31 point game.

    And playoffs? Wow, Raptor fans have to be the biggest bi-polar fans on the planet. They’ve certainly played well lately, but it’s a long season and the Raptors are simply not that talented a team.

    And as Scott said, if the refs had called the foul (wow, can’t believe they didn’t) or Pierce makes the shot that he normally would have, the Raptors don’t win and I’m guessing all the playoff talk wouldn’t happen.

  4. Tim W.: While I wouldn’t describe the Raptors as likely to grab one of the last two playoff seeds in the East, it’s not like any of the other teams appear to be significantly better. I suppose the Knicks could be seen as one of the favourites, but they’re pretty dysfunctional right now. 35 wins might be enough to make the playoffs in the East, and that doesn’t seem ridiculously out of reach for this squad at the moment.

  5. @ Tim: Bosh’s 31 point game against Boston came while Garnett was out with an injury. Not saying it’s Bosh vs. KG, all day, everyday when the two teams met, but Bosh never put up 29 or more as the main man vs. KG and the Celts. Andrea did. Sure, it’s one game, doesn’t mean much, and there was a non-call, but it is what it is. And things can change quickly in an Eastern Conference that is complete shit. Doesn’t take much more than a 4-game win streak, which I’m pretty confident will be the case after Wednesday’s game.

  6. I just think that it is about time the Celtics have a call go against them. Ever since they became a contending team with that superstar tandem, the whistle has clearly been in their favour. There are clips on YouTube where KG commits 3-4 illegal screens in one offensive set. And it is obvious to me that KG gets away with an awful lot on the defensive side of the ball – moreso than he ever used to. Paul Pierce gets a similar type of treatment. My favourite play is the Paul-Pierce-drive-into-the-lane-and-make-a-loud-noise play, which always results in a foul. I remember when Hedo use to try that and get no calls (deservingly so).

    So, I think the no-call on Ray Allen still puts the Celtics well ahead in terms of the overall favour of the whistle.

  7. I’m not really a fan of tanking, simply because I’m paranoid that we end up 15th in the East and still get the 6th or 7th pick in the lottery. Also, we’ve looked good, but we’ve improved to 5-9, it’s a long season and I’m still not convinced this team could win 30 games over the course of an 82 game season.

  8. Maybe we should go through the whole game and complain about every non call. Can anyone not just enjoy a win and a very entertaining game.

    For all the people who want the Raptors to tank the season for a good draft pick can you please tell me who we are gonna pick??

    Toronto is such a crappy sports town. The Raptors I think are going to be in a better position after this season collective barganing agreement. There might be only a few teams available to sign free agents next season

    Lets just all try and enjoy the way this team is playing. Its far more exciting watching this team than last seasons. Win or lose they for the most part(Washington) play hard and I think the opposing team take them for granted.

  9. I just find it hard to find anything to criticize.
    Why even bring up the noncall or Pierce’s miss. That”s basketball.

    Tim, you have followed the Raptors for years, Garnett owned Bosh. Playoffs? Not gonna go there yet but will say we are not as bad as I thought we’d be.
    If Bayless works out, and Davis adjusts quickly, why not? As Scott said, look at who we are competing against.

  10. Barbosa deserves accolades, raw unconditional praise, and thousands of Huskey jerseys with his name on the back. He won this game with 4 quarters of inspired play and the fast-break combo with him & Weems is worth the price of admission win or um, not.

  11. Scott, is there an IP filter o your video provider? I am in Spain and I can never see any of your videos.

  12. renato: Unfortunately, our video rights for this NBA footage only applies to Canadian viewers. It’s too bad since I know many Raptors fans are overseas but there’s no way around this.

  13. This is the job for the fans: enjoy the wins, get crazy in the losses. No more, no less.
    The IF, IF, IF are nothing, either you win or lose.
    On the contrary: big teams win ugly most of times. It’s a sign of greatness, indeed.

    On the Tank Nation: it’s a natural temptation, but…. you know, maybe you pick up the n° 1 and choose Oden over Durant. Or, as Tim W. loves to go, you get a Bargnani.
    So, what for? Would you all like to tank a season to get a Thabeet, or any of the dozens of players drafted high and never become real NBA stuff?
    Long season, to be gone without expectations!

  14. I loved how Evans blocked out Big Baby, allowing Weems to go to the hoop. That’s why we need Evans on our team, no one else will do that dirty work inside. You’ll never see Bargs think about doing that, with Evans it’s an instinctive movement imho.

  15. Aren’t you going to post something about pedja stoijakovich??

  16. So you like Weems now, Scott??!!

    Weems can be really really good, just needs to learn what is a good shot and what is a bad one. I think that will come with guaranteed minutes.

    I’d like to see Kleiza traded no problem with him but I would like Weems as starting three for the rest of the season.

  17. I’m pretty tired of your constant negativity. The whole point of watching sports is entertainment; comic relief. They won, for Christ’s sake. There are “what ifs” in every game.

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