In the 80th game of the season the Raptors were without Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa and Sonny Weems. They were facing a Nets team that was without Deron Williams, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow and Damion James.
Can you tell the end is near? I can.
Have to say I was surprised with the effort and energy the Raptors had to start this game. While I figured they could get a win –look at the Nets bench, it’s like a collection of the NBA’s forgotten men– I did not expect the Raptors to be leading by 19 at the half, but that’s exactly what happened after a first half where they shot 66 percent and a second quarter where they made 12 of their 15 shots. That’s crazy. Even against a Deron Williams-less Nets team.
In the fourth, the Raptors showed their youth and probably some fatigue from the shortened bench, allowing the Nets to chip away and whittle what was a 21-point lead down to five with less than a minute remaining. After Jerryd Bayless got to the line on consecutive possessions and made three of four free throws, the Raptors victory was safe.
With the 99-92 win, the Raptors pick up their 22nd victory of the season. They also got another solid game from Bayless who led the team with 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He went 8-for-9 from the free throw line and added two rebounds and four assists. Before the game, Jay Triano said they want Bayless to use his ability as a scorer when he is on the floor and when a defence takes it away, to start looking for his teammates.
The team has to be very happy with what they’ve seen from Bayless over the last handful of games. They also have to be pleased with the effort they’ve seen from James Johnson. Johnson finished with 18 points against the Nets, but it’s his size, rebounding and hustle that stick out as things that the team needs when he’s on the floor. DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis each added 18 points and Julian Wright scored 10 as the team had five players reach double figures in the victory.
After the game I asked Davis if the toughest part of the NBA is being consistent and he said yes, while saying that’s been his goal down the stretch. He also said that four games in five nights is harder than anyone can tell you. Despite the fatigue and inconsistency, Davis has been a professional since the moment a Toronto Raptors hat was placed upon his head at MSG last June. These games are important for his development and he knows it, giving everything every second he’s on the floor.
A meaningless game between two teams not playing for a postseason means so much more when you see players giving it importance by understanding that every minute on the court is another minute to prove their worth. These young guys did that tonight. It was good to see. It was also nice to see a victory for the home fans, too.
Nets player of the game: Brook Lopez – 35 pts, 11 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk
Raptors player of the game: Ed Davis – 18 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts, 3 blks
Goat of the game: Travis Outlaw – 0 pts, 0-6 fgs, 1 reb 1 ast, 1 stl