I don’t want to speak for the hopes and desires of all Raptors fans throughout this season, but in my mind, sensible Raptors fans want the team to play competitive games and show some promise for the future while still losing most of their games so they get a high pick in a loaded draft. If you’re part of “my group”, then you were pretty happy with the Raptors’ dramatic two-point loss to the Lakers this afternoon.
Here are my six thoughts on Game No. 29: Lakers 94, Raptors 92.
1. I frequently claim that Kobe Bryant’s clutch reputation is somewhat overrated, but he certainly has a history of hitting big shots to beat this particular team. He made today’s winning basket with 4.2 seconds left, and he killed the Raptors with this clutch dagger on March 9, 2010:
2. In 455 previous NBA games, Jose Calderon’s career high for points in a game was 27 on February 11 of last year. Today, he set a new personal best with 30 points in just 18 field goal attempts. While it obviously wasn’t Jose’s fault the Raptors lost this game, it’s interesting to note that the Raptors have lost three out of the four games in his career in which he scored 25 points or more. I also think it’s worth noting that Jose is the only Raptor who can have a game like this and nobody really wants to talk about it. I’ll let you discuss among yourselves the reasons for that. I also think it’s interesting that Calderon played arguably the best game of his career against a team that really should have figured out a way to trade for him a long time ago.
3. The Raptors would have won today if DeMar DeRozan had played halfway-decent, but he finished with a putrid eight points on 2-for-13 shooting from the field. It’s not like he was settling for ill-advised jumpshots, since only five of his shots were taken outside the paint. Bizarrely, he set his own career-high with seven assists, topping his previous high of five dimes.
4. Is Amir Johnson still having personal problems? He didn’t take a single field goal attempt in 16 minutes and had just two rebounds and a steal today. A lot of people were critical of Bryan Colangelo for signing him to a five-year, $30 million contract in the 2010 off-season, but I felt like he had done a lot to silence those critics with his play last season. Many of you probably know that I’ve been a big supporter of Amir throughout his career, but I can’t defend the way he’s played this season.
5. I’ve ripped Jamaal Magloire a lot this season but he’s one of the main reasons the Raptors were even in this game after they fell behind by 15 points after a quarter. He had four points, seven rebounds, and he was plus-12 in just 15 minutes today. After entering the game three minutes into the second quarter, he did a great job boxing out Andrew Bynum and setting screens for his teammates. If he can provide that kind of contribution a lot more often, he might have a future in this league after this season.
6. Yeah, I know Rasual Butler called a timeout on that critical inbounds attempt and the officials missed it, resulting in a five-second violation. Let’s not lose sight of the real issue here: Why was this responsibilty given to Rasual freakin’ Butler in the first place? And for what it’s worth, DeRozan was open but I suspect the called play was to get the ball to Calderon, who was being smothered by Kobe. If this season mattered to me, I suppose I’d be filled with outrage over the missed time-out, but I’m taking a long-term visionary approach to these games. And let me reiterate: Rasual Butler is a terrible NBA player.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon — 30 Pts, 13-18 FG, 4-4 3Pt, 6 Ast, 2 Reb,
Lakers Player of the Game: Pau Gasol — 16 Pts, 6-15 FG, 4-4 FT, 17 Reb, 6 Ast