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Jerryd Bayless and the Raptors had a night to remember in Detroit

Let’s be honest, a lot of Raptors fans were expecting a win tonight in Detroit, or at least a competitive game between two of the weaker teams in the East.  If you watched quarters one through three, what you saw was a disgrace to the game of basketball.

If you watched the fourth quarter, you saw the biggest comeback in Toronto Raptors history.

The Raps actually did jump on the Pistons early, grabbing leads of 8-2 and 15-8 in the first few minutes. But instead of putting their feet on the Pistons’ throats, so to speak, the Raptors let up. Slowly but surely, you could see Detroit building momentum and gaining confidence.

The Raptors seemed to quit in the second quarter. They weren’t attacking the basket or crashing the glass on the offensive end, and they weren’t keeping guys in front of them or guarding the perimeter on the defensive end.

The Pistons, who average less than 94 points per game, had an inexcusable 43 in the second quarter, 72 in the first half, and a 19-point lead over the listless Raptors at the break. To boot, the only reason the Raps weren’t down by 22 is that Leandro Barbosa converted a half-court heave at the buzzer. It was an embarrassing display of professional basketball, and twitter (including my own page) was lighting up with negative rants about the team and coaching staff.

In the third, the Raptors brought a more respectable effort, but still didn’t seem to have their heads in the game. At one point, they chiseled the deficit down to 15, before allowing the Pistons to extend the lead to 25. The score was 89-64 for Detroit, with 5:51 to go in the third. That moment may go down as rock-bottom for this Raptors team this season.

Toronto then went on an incredible run that was sparked by the aggressive play of Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa, the spirited and feisty defence of Julian Wright, and the cold-blooded shooting of Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors found themselves down just 16 after three, and slowly eroded that margin in the fourth.

Bargnani hit a game-tying three with about three minutes to play, and Jerryd Bayless gave the Raps an improbable lead with another three-ball on the next possession.

A couple of minutes later, the Raptors had completed a 29-point swing in less than 18 minutes, had outscored the Pistons 37-17 in the fourth quarter and 67-44 in the second half, and had completed the biggest comeback in franchise history.

There are a few guys I want to mention to close this post.

First, Julian Wright. The guy has proven time and time again that if he gets playing time, he will work his butt off for you. Case in point, four steals in 17 hard-nosed minutes Saturday night. No, he’s not as talented and does not have the potential that DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems have. But if I were Jay Triano, I would reward Wright and send a message to a timid Weems by starting Julian on Tuesday in Charlotte.

Next up, Jerryd Bayless. He was frustrating to watch early, as his forced offence turned into silly turnovers. Then he settled down, moved the ball, attacked when he saw an opening and hit some big shots en route to tying his career-high with 31 points. Barbosa also gets some love for picking up the team, with Bayless, in that second half, and for letting it be known that “the game is not over until the buzzers come out.” I don’t know that the buzzers are ever put away, but you get what Leandro is saying.

And lastly, I’ll give some love to Andrea Bargnani. I refused to give him any on Friday night despite his 24-point performance because he was awful defensively. For all his faults, one thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough is his ice-water, clutch shooting. The guy is money when you need a big bucket, and he’s had that going for him since his rookie year.

There’s not much left to say after 650 words, so I’ll just break up this love-fest by saying that the great comeback still does not excuse the effort, or lack thereof, the Raptors displayed in the first half. They were lucky it was the pitiful Pistons tonight.

If this team expects to get any more wins like that, they are in serious, serious trouble.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 34 Min, 31 Pts, 10-12 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 10-12 FT, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 TO

Pistons Player of the Game: Ben Wallace - 39 Min, 23 Pts, 10-13 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-4 FT, 14 Reb, 4 Ast, 5 Stl

Goat of the Game: Sonny Weems – 20 Min, 2 Pts, 1-3 FG, 1 Ast, 1 TO