First of all, before we really get this post started, let’s straighten something out. No, the noise in the ACC was nowhere near as loud as it was for Vince Carter’s first return or any of his first five returns, for that matter. The arena got loud at times, some half-assed chants were started, but for the most part, this was small potatoes compared to VC hate.
Now to the game.
The Raptors used their usual first quarter recipe to make a game of it early. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan carried the offence with hot shooting, and Amir Johnson supplied a spark with eight rebounds in the quarter. Chris Bosh was also hot in that first quarter, and it became evident early on that he was in for a big game.
The Raptors hung around throughout the first half, never trailing by more than eight. They weren’t shooting the ball particularly well (42 per cent in first half), and Miami was scorching (57 per cent), but through extra effort and good team ball, Toronto went into the half down just four.
The third quarter was the really the Raptors’ undoing on this night, as the Heat attacked them from the opening possession and began to assert themselves as the quarter wore on. Bosh stayed consistent, Dwyane Wade started getting hot, and LeBron was getting others involved. There was definitely some panic in the ACC, as the Heat opened up a 13-point lead and looked ready to blow the game wide open.
Credit the Raptors for digging down and climbing back into the game at the end of the third quarter. They found a way to cut the deficit to eight heading into the fourth, and to be honest, actually had their fair share of opportunities to make it even closer than that, but couldn’t capitalize.
That trend continued into the fourth quarter. Every time the Heat began to pull away again, Andrea Bargnani converted an and-one or nailed an ice-cold three to slowly chip away at Miami’s lead. And once again, the Raptors were getting chances to creep even closer, but found a way to blow those chances, never getting closer than four points, at 91-87.
If there was one area of the game that really held the Raptors back tonight (besides rebounding), it was point guard play. Yes, I’m aware Jose Calderon racked up 14 assists, but his overall game was below average. He took some ill-advised shots, which ruined many Raptors’ runs in the second half, and when he took shots he should have taken, he just missed them. From a shooting standpoint, it was typical Calderon: going cold in the biggest moments of the biggest games.
When the Raptors went to the bench to relieve Jose, Jerryd Bayless was even worse. I’m usually a fan of what Bayless brings to the table, even on an off night, but he simply didn’t have it tonight, and his play was hard to watch.
From the negatives of loss no. 41 to the positives, Bargnani, DeRozan, Johnson and Ed Davis were all deserving of some praise.
Bargnani only grabbed four rebounds, and was average on the defensive end, but without his lights out shooting, the Raptors would have been dead on arrival tonight. If there is one positive thing you can say about Bargnani, it’s that he usually hits big shots when you need him to, in big games. In that way, he’s the opposite of Calderon.
DeRozan finished with 24 points and aggressively attacked the basket throughout the game. He missed some close-range shots and layups, but the effort and fight were clearly there. Amir had a terrible shooting night, and like DeMar, got some unlucky bounces around the rim. But he still contributed 11 rebounds and five blocks in 26 minutes.
As for young Ed Davis, he continued to do the Raptors’ dirty work, finishing with 13 boards in just 23 minutes.
There was actually a point in the fourth quarter where Jay Triano had Bargnani, Johnson and Davis all on the floor together. It was a surprising look, and it will be interesting to see if we get it again at some point down the stretch of this lost season.
Before I go, I wanted to point out some interesting sights and sounds you may not have seen or heard if you watched this game on television. First, Bosh was actually booed in the pre-game layup line. When he received a pass, the boos rained down, and fans actually cheered when he missed a shot…in the pre-game warm-ups. Then during the singing of the U.S. national anthem, the crowd began to boo when Bosh was shown on the jumbo-tron. While I felt there was reason to boo Bosh, I also thought it was classless to do it during the national anthem.
In hockey, there is the sarcastic cheer that a struggling goalie receives when he makes a routine save. In basketball, in Toronto, we now have the sarcastic rebound cheer. In the last two home games at the ACC, there has been a noticeable, insincere cheer when Bargnani grabbed his first rebound.
Also, if you haven’t heard already, after the ball game, Bosh was the last player to leave the court, as he had been stopped for an interview with the Heat broadcasters. As he left the floor, Bosh stopped, blew kisses to the crowd and appeared to be making a type of “bring it on” hand motion. Some believe Bosh was actually being sincere, showing love for the city before he left. But it did not look like a sincere gesture from my vantage point, and these comments might confirm that.
Lastly, if you were wondering what the best in-arena sign was, it wasn’t even Bosh-related. It was actually intended for LeBron, and it was a cardboard cutout of Delonte West’s face. Need I say more?
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 39 Min, 38 Pts, 15-26 FG, 5-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 4 Reb, 3 TO
Heat Player of the Game: LeBron James – 38 Min, 23 Pts, 8-18 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 7-10 FT, 13 Reb, 8 Ast, 5 TO
Goat of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 15 Min, 2 Pts, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO