Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

The Raptors dominated yet another Eastern Conference minnow at the Air Canada Centre on Friday in a 99-78 rout of the Bobcats.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

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Game No. 52: Heat 113, Raptors 101

The “Hollywood as Hell” Heat on a Friday night, a sold out Air Canada Centre and a crowd that was just waiting for a reason to explode. The atmosphere was set for a great night of basketball in Toronto, and the undermanned Raptors did their part in trying to deliver.

The Raps were able to undo a horrible start with an improved effort, but ultimately, the talent gap between the two teams took precedence.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

1- This game played out a lot like the Raptors’ home loss to the Lakers in February, where Toronto fell behind a vastly superior team out of the gate, fought back to get back in the game, and then fell apart to take another home defeat. On Friday, the Raptors found themselves down 16-2 within minutes. The Heat never seemed like they wanted to go in for the kill though, and the Raps picked up their intensity level to hang around, cutting the deficit to four after one quarter and eventually sending the game to the fourth quarter tied at 83. I don’t know if the result was ever really in question, but the Raptors gave us reason to believe until the Heat threw one last knockout punch in the final minutes.

2- Another similarity between this game and the loss to the Lakers was the unbalanced officiating down the stretch. Yes, the Heat only took five more free throws than the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 10 free throw attempts, and the teams finished with 16 personal fouls a piece. But if you watched this game, you know which team the refs were siding with in the fourth quarter. The defining moment for me was Dwyane Wade managing to draw a foul on Jose Calderon despite leaning in and smacking Calderon in the face with the ball (Jose was given a tech for arguing), while at the other end, Wade flopped on a phantom elbow from James Johnson and drew an offensive foul. The big three of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for just two personal fouls in 111 total minutes. This team is already talented enough to win its share of ball games. They don’t need anymore help from the refs.

3- After two visits from the Heat over the last couple of seasons, one thing has become clear, they’re not quite the draw I thought they’d still be in year two. Any time a team has three All Stars and two future Hall of Famers, they’re going be worth watching and a team that brings people to the arena, but in all honesty, did either of Chris Bosh’s two returns to Toronto with his superstar teammates even amount to half of the hype and buzz Vince Carter generated for his first five or six returns to the ACC? Heck, I don’t even think Miami brought the same buzz into Toronto that the Lakers brought this season. I don’t know whether to blame it on the fact that Bosh is just too dry to generate much of a response from fans or to simply blame it on the fact that our attention span and focus on a sports craze is as short as ever. Whatever it is, the Heat hype has seemingly already started to fade.

4- From an individual standpoint, there were a few Raptors performances worth mentioning. Jose Calderon’s 16 assists made it five straight games with 10 or more for the Spaniard and increased his total to 74 assists over seven games since his return to the lineup. DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani were a formidable offensive duo, combining for 55 points on 19-of-34 shooting, but neither did much of anything else on the floor to help the Raptors (though at least DeRozan got to the line 10 times). The most encouraging performance came from Amir Johnson, who put up a double-double of 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. With Aaron Gray’s play beginning to slow down, I wonder if another strong showing or two from Amir will get him back into the starting lineup before the season is over.

5- As obnoxious as I find the Heat, I’m not naive enough to ignore the fact that they’re a great team and are obviously very capable of winning an NBA championship this season. Having said that, and despite the abundance of talent they possess between three players, I still don’t think they are the best team in the NBA, or even in the Eastern Conference for that matter. The Bulls and Thunder are the better teams and the more balanced teams, in terms of how their talent is spread out throughout the various positions and the bench. I know LeBron and the Heat turned it on against the Bulls in the East Final last season, but if Derrick Rose is healthy, Chicago can even the score this year.

By the way, did you catch Bosh’s dunk to give the Heat a 12-point lead in the final seconds? More importantly, did you catch Chris get all excited about it and talk smack as if he did something meaningful? It’s because he’s a tough guy, you know, the kind of tough guy that splashes around by himself in a wading pool for the Maxim cameras. I’ve always been a fan of Bosh’s game, but has there ever been a more accurate assessment of him than Kevin Durant’s “fake tough guy” claim?

6- A large portion of the crowd roared when the Raptors eclipsed the 100-point mark (free pizza) in a losing cause again, but on this night, they weren’t even close to being the most disappointing fans in the building. That title goes to the hundreds of “fans” who showed up in Heat jerseys in a feeble attempt to pass as supporters. Give me a friggin break. I used to see a handful of Wade jerseys in the stands when the Raptors would host the Heat in the old days. Now all of a sudden there’s a plethora of Miami fans living 2400 km away in Toronto? It’s bad enough that non deserving “fans” in Miami are trying to play the part of passionate fanatics right now, but to see weak-minded followers in different markets latching on to any bandwagon they think can deliver instant gratification is simply pathetic.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 30 Min, 12 Pts, 6-8 FG, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO (As good as Jose was, and as strong an offensive game as DeMar and Andrea had, Amir was probably the most complete Raptor in this game in terms of playing on both ends of the floor)

Heat Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade – 36 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 1-2 3PT, 5-7 FT, 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk (Bosh and LeBron were each dominant as well, as the Big Three combined for 86 points)

Game No. 51: Raptors 105, Nuggets 96

The Raptors followed up their home stinker against the Magic on Monday with a much more competitive game against the Nuggets on Wednesday. What the injury-riddled Raps lacked in the talent and man power departments, they more than made up for with a commendable effort against Denver, resulting in the Raptors’ first victory over the Nuggets in five full years.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- For a while, this didn’t look like the type of game the Raptors could come away with. In fact, it looked like the prototypical “Tank Nation” game. The Raps were playing pretty well, were playing hard, were taking care of the ball and were hitting a barrage of threes in the first half. The Nuggets, on the other hand, didn’t look sharp at all and missed nine straight shots at one point in the first quarter. And yet through all of that, Toronto was never able to open up a big lead, holding on to just a two point advantage at the half. It just seemed like the Nuggets were one big run away from taking control and running with it. But credit the Raptors for hanging tough, bending without breaking, and ultimately using a 17-2 run, which included the Nuggets misfiring on 12 straight possessions, to win their 17th game of the season and snap a nine-game losing streak against Denver.

2- Andrea Bargnani had by far his best game since his return to the lineup, putting up 26 points on 50 per cent shooting while getting to the line 12 times in 36 minutes. Bargnani brought it from start to finish in this one, attacking the basket from his first touch of the game and staying aggressive throughout. What was encouraging to see was the return of his quickness and burst off of his first step, which was noticeably missing over the last couple of weeks. For his effort, Bargs was rewarded with a minor milestone, as the 26-year-old eclipsed the 6000 career points mark in the second quarter. We’d all like to see more rebounds fall into Andrea’s hands, but you can’t say a lack of effort was the reason he only grabbed five tonight.

3- Nowhere was the Raptors’ workmanlike effort more noticeable than in the rebounding department, as the Raps out-rebounded the Nuggets 49-43. On the surface, a rebounding advantage of six doesn’t seem like much to write home about, but it’s impressive when you consider that the Nuggets sit third in the NBA in rebounding differential, and when you consider that the Raptors were actually out-rebounded 14-5 in the first quarter. Whatever was said in the huddle between the first and second quarters obviously worked, because the Raptors definitely had a fire under them while crashing the boards in quarters two to four.

4- So I tell you the Raptors dominated the boards down the stretch and grabbed 49 total rebounds, and you’d probably assume Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Aaron Gray did most of the dirty work. Nope, six-foot-seven Gary Forbes led the rebounding charge for the Raptors, cleaning the glass to finish with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds against his former team, which must have felt great for Gary (You see him stare down the Nuggets bench after his fourth quarter three-ball?), especially since the solid performance came in a win. It was Forbes’ second double-double in the last three games, as Gary is proving he is more than just a bench scorer, grabbing 31 rebounds combined over his last four contests. We’ve already seen flashes of Forbes’ passing ability in spurts this season and we know he can score, so if he can become a consistent rebounder off of the bench too, the Raptors will have a very solid and very cheap option to call upon off the pine for the next couple of seasons.

5- It’s not ideal in terms of the core development, but the Raptors’ two 10-day guys played a part in this W. Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh combined for 12 points on four-of-nine shooting to go along with two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes between the two of them. That’s obviously a small contribution, but it’s a lot more than most teams receive from a couple of 10-day players down the stretch of a lost season. I was surprised to see them get 13 minutes of burn a piece, but they both deserved it, and could continue to see consistent minutes if the Raptors don’t get healthy any time soon.

6- By eclipsing the 100-point mark, the Raptors gave the 15,867 in attendance a free slice of Pizza Pizza pizza to cheer about. If you’re a frequenter of RaptorBlog, you know all about our stance on the silly gimmick. But at least on Wednesday night, the promotion had a fun, lovable vibe to it, as fans roared for pizza while also cheering as the home team pulled away for a rare home victory. Since I never really contributed my two cents on the matter, I’ll point out that I don’t have a problem with teams adding the potential for an extra benefit for their paying fans in attendance, even if it’s something as cheap as a slice of pizza. It’s just that I think there should be a much simpler formula: If the Raptors win, fans get pizza, regardless of the amount of points scored. If the home team loses, we all lose, again, regardless of the point total. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned to Scott, this seems like one of those suggestions that makes too much sense to ever really be considered.

***

You didn’t honestly think I would get through this post without showing you this did you? “Little man, don’t take a charge in there!”

As usual though, someone else had the last laugh when facing JaVale McGee.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 36 Min, 26 Pts, 7-14 FG, 2-4 3PT, 10-12 FT, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Nuggets Player of the Game: Ty Lawson – 39 Min, 26 Pts, 9-19 FG, 2-7 3PT, 6-6 FT, 4 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO

Presented without comment: Here is the reaction from the Orlando Magic bench when fans at the Air Canada Centre cheered after the Raptors broke the 100-point mark while trailing the Magic by 17 points with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, which meant fans could trade in their tickets for a free slice of Pizza Pizza. Fist-bump to the fan (who wants to remain anonymous) who sent me this video.

It's not even good pizza!

There has been no shortage of reasons to be embarrassed to be a Raptors fan over the 17 years of the franchise’s existence. But there is one constant, recurring incident that never fails to make me feel like I’m rooting for a D-League team, and that is the reaction of fans at the Air Canada Centre when the Raptors break the 100-point mark in a game. You see, any time the Raptors score 100 points at a home game — regardless of whether they’re winning or losing — a distressing number of fans go crazy because they’re able to redeem their tickets for a free slice of cheese or pepperoni pizza at a Canadian restaurant chain.

Any time I attend a game and the Raptors start to approach the 100-point mark, some fans will inevitably start chanting “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” and I have to resist throwing toonies at them and yelling, “Here’s your slice! Now shut the hell up!” I know that these are tough economic times for some people, but if you can afford to go to a Raptors game, you can afford a slice of pizza.

Some of you might be thinking: “What kind of a monster criticizes people for celebrating free food?” This guy, that’s who. And I know I’m not alone on this issue. It’s one thing if the Raptors are winning — in that case, enjoy your free slices. Whatever.

But when fans at the Air Canada Centre cheer when the Raptors break 100 while they’re on their way to a crushing loss? That’s when I die a little bit inside. If you watched the end of last night’s loss to the Magic, you saw that it happened again.

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