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Joey Dorsey and Reggie Evans

Joey Dorsey
Season stats: 43 GP (nine starts), 12.1 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 52.5 FG%, 47.7 FT%, 4.4 RPG

Considering the fact that he’s only played in 61 career games over just three seasons, I thought Joey Dorsey was still a lot younger than 27-years-old. When you look at his season and career thus far with knowledge of his age, you realize that he’ll probably never be more than what he was this season for the Raptors.

Sure, Dorsey was always ready to come in and help the young Raps in any way he was asked, and performed admirably when called upon. But at the end of the day, he was still just the fifth or sometimes sixth big for Toronto.

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The 21-57 Raptors entered Philadelphia without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, and found out, just before tip-off, that they would also be without the services of Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa.

In theory, this game probably should have never been a game, but the Raptors were actually keeping things close early on. By early on, I mean the first six minutes. After tying the game at 14 midway through the first quarter, the Raps, who had been playing with energy and a decent effort on the defensive end, went ice cold.

Toronto missed its last 11 shots of the first quarter, and watched the Sixers finish the quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead into the second quarter.

Things just got ugly from that point on. The Raptors turned the ball over, committed silly offensive fouls, clanked nasty jumpers, and were shooting under 25 per cent from the field early in the second.

But the Raps did respond with a 9-0 run of their own to get back in the ball game, and despite the fact that they committed 11 turnovers and shot just 37 per cent in the first half, they went into the break down “just” 12. Obviously, digging a double-digit hole in the first half is not ideal, but if you actually watched the first half of this game, you know that it could have easily been a 20-25 point deficit.

Philly must have regretted not putting the Raptors away early, as Toronto broke out in the third quarter. The Raps settled things down offensively, locked in on defence, and relied on the suddenly hot shooting of DeMar DeRozan to turn this into a ball game again.

After struggling to get over the five-point hump, an Ed Davis jam cut the deficit to three, and a Jerryd Bayless jumper put the Raptors ahead, at 71-70, for their first lead since the game was 14-12. After a mostly horrendous first half that should have had them down and out, the Raptors used a scorching third quarter to put themselves in a one-point game after three.

The Raptors continued to hang tough in the fourth quarter, and even had a chance for a game-tying three in the dying seconds, as Jerryd Bayless and DeRozan took over in the final frame. Unfortunately though, for the second game in a row, a solid second half effort could not dig the Raptors out of an early hole. And it was turnovers that killed them.

On to the positives for the Raptors. With a depleted lineup once again, the young core of DeRozan, Bayless and Ed Davis shone bright. Jerryd and DeMar combined for 51 points and knocked down some big shots late in the game, while Davis finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

It was also nice to see Julian Wright providing a spark off of the bench again.

On a random sidenote, Jay Triano was ejected in the fourth quarter during a commercial break, but from what I saw, he was only given one technical foul.

So the Raptors drop to 21-58, but continue to show some promise for the future through their young, talented players. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that.

Next is up is a home date with the almost as equally lowly Nets on Sunday night.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 42 Min, 24 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 4 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO

76ers Player of the Game: Elton Brand – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 10-16 FG, 2-2 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: The Philly faithful. The building looked shamefully empty for a team that is a week away from playoff basketball.

14 886 (It looked like a lot less than that) fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre for this meeting between two teams with a combined record of 37-117. And really, when you hear numbers like that, you can’t blame fans for not scooping up tickets.

For those who did show up, they were “treated” to an excruciatingly painful basketball game. Just as there was no energy emanating from the stands, there was even less to go around on the depleted Raptors’ bench.

The Raps got off to a sluggish start for the second night in a row, and allowed the dismal Cavs to open the ball game with a big run and build confidence.

Reggie Evans was the only Raptor who seemed to know what the hell he was doing on the floor in the first half. To emphasize how horrible Toronto was in the first 24 minutes, consider that Reggie scored 10 of the team’s first 30 points.

To make matters worse, the Raptors, as usual, showed no signs of concern for the defensive end of the court. It showed in the fact that the offensively anaemic Cavs, who average just 95 points per game, had put up 60 in the first half on 60 per cent shooting and were up 20.

The ACC faithful made the young Raptors aware of their displeasure, sending the Raps to the locker room with a serenade of boos, and rightfully so.

The third quarter looked like an extension of the opening half at first, but the Raptors began to make their own run towards the end of the quarter, and a hard, flagrant foul committed on Joey Graham, by James Johnson, seemed to create a spark around the arena.

The little run had the deficit down to 13 going into the fourth quarter.

Alexis Ajinca, yes, Alexis Ajinca, DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless continued to power the Raptors’ rally in the fourth quarter, and a Sonny Weems’ three-pointer had the suddenly cold-shooting Cavs’ lead down to five.

The game went back and forth between five and 10 points after that, and  despite the fact that Bayless was keeping the Raptors alive, the 22-point hole they had dug themselves proved to be too much, as did Baron Davis’ clutch shooting down the stretch.

I’d love to say it was a valiant effort from the young Raptors, or that their comeback attempt was admirable, but the truth is that a quarter-and-a-half of good, tough basketball does not excuse their piss-poor performance through two-and-a-half quarters.

There shouldn’t be many positives to discuss after a loss to Cleveland, but there were a few bright spots for the Raptors. Reggie Evans finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, DeMar DeRozan came on in the second half to finish with 19 points and Sonny Weems finished with 17 points on just 10 shots.

But the real shining presence for the Raptors of late continues to be the emergence of Jerryd Bayless as a very capable point guard. After being sent back to the bench to accomodate Jose Calderon, Bayless still had another solid game.

If this season truly was supposed to be about youth development and an eye to the future, then one has to question why Bayless wasn’t given the start tonight with Jose coming back after an injury. The choice for the final four games should be simple: Bayless should get the nod.

Now there are those that actually claim to cheer against the Raptors right now, in order to attain a higher probability of winning the lottery. Believe me, I understand this thinking to a certain extent, but the way I see it, a home loss to a team like the Cavs undoes everything that a young team can gain from impressive wins, like the recent W’s over the Thunder, Bulls and Magic.

Speaking of the lottery situation, the Raptors (at 21-57) now sit in a tie with the Wizards for the 28th and 27th spots overall. That would mean the Raptors would most likely receive the third or fourth pick in the draft. Unless something drastic changes in the final week of the season, that’s exactly where the Raps should finish up.

If you were wondering why Amir Johnson suddenly joined the walking wounded tonight, it’s because Amir sustained an ankle injury during the pre-game warmup.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 6-8 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Cavaliers Player of the Game: J.J. Hickson – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 27 Min, 4 Pts, 0-7 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 1 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO (I could have easily given this title to Ed Davis tonight as well)

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A solid crowd packed the Air Canada Centre to see the Bargnani-less and Calderon-less Raptors take on Hedo Turkoglu and the Magic, and the sellout crowd of 19 800 were treated to quite the ball game.

It didn’t look like a good game was on tap in the first quarter, as the two teams couldn’t get out of their own ways, and played a very slow-paced opening frame. But the Raptors were showing a refreshing commitment to defence, and Ed Davis led the way early on, as Toronto hung with Orlando.

Dwight Howard began taking over in the second quarter, and was virtually unstoppable inside. Even worse, D-12 was making his free throws in the first half. The Magic took control with a 30-point second quarter, but the Raptors refused to lay down.

The third quarter was a battle of the point guards, as Jameer Nelson and Jerryd Bayless traded shot for shot. Despite conceding back-to-back 30-point quarters and clearly being outmatched in the skill department, the Raptors headed to the fourth quarter down just six points, and the rowdy ACC crowd could sense an upset looming.

Jerryd Bayless continued to carry the team in the final quarter, and DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa hit some big shots late, as the Raptors climbed back in front. Orlando had its chances to regain control, but either ended up turning the ball over or missing free throws.

The playoff-bound Magic could only watch as the young, scrappy Raptors manufactured one of their best victories of the season. Without their leading scorer and starting point guard, the Raptors, losers of six straight and 20-55 (coming into this game) overall, were able to knock off an East power and their superstar in impressive fashion.

The Raps left the court to a standing ovation. It was a welcomed sight to see, and well-deserved by the players on this night.

The obvious positives from this game are that the young core pieces all contributed. DeRozan and Bayless combined for 47 points, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson provided solid defence inside and James Johnson put together another balanced stat-line of 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Another impressive note from the night is that the Raptors dominated one of the better rebounding teams in the league on the glass, out-rebounding Orlando, 48-30. Leading the way in this department – who else, but Reggie Evans, who pulled down 17 rebounds in 32 minutes off of the bench.

The game had its slow points, but was, overall, another entertaining affair at the ACC. Raptors fans have to be happy with the performance from their young team, and the end result.

And yes, I will be one of the people who comments on the fact that this team is scrappier, better defensively, better on the glass and overall, just more entertaining without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. It doesn’t mean I’m a Calderon or Bargnani “hater,” though I have stated my issues with those two in the past.

I’m just stating an opinion; an opinion I believe is obvious to anyone who watches this team on a regular basis.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 7-14 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl,

Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 39 Min, 31 Pts, 11-20 FG, 9-15 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Quentin Richardson – 23 Min, 3 Pts, 1-4 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 TO

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Anyone with a clue about basketball or the human body knew that the Suns would be running in quicksand Wednesday night in Phoenix, less than 24 hours removed from a triple-overtime thriller against the Lakers. Jay Triano and the Raptors obviously knew the same thing, and were still feeling the sting of a disgusting blowout in Denver, because they came out with great jump and energy in the first quarter.

As usual, DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani carried the scoring load early on, combining to score 15 of the team’s first 17 points. James Johnson set the tone on the defensive end, and the Raptors quickly built up an eight point lead midway through the first quarter. The Suns responded, but a Leandro Barbosa three-pointer at the buzzer still sent the Raptors into the second quarter with a six-point lead.

It was clear that the game was there for the taking for Toronto.

But the Raptors weren’t as sharp in the second quarter and the Suns hung around with timely threes and their reserves. With Steve Nash sitting for the entire quarter and Grant Hill and Mickael Pietrus leaving the game early, the Suns actually kept pace in the second frame.

Despite shooting 54 per cent in the first half and hanging 61 points on a dead-tired team, the Raptors still only managed a six-point lead at the half.

Toronto got out to a 6-0 run to start the second half, had Bargnani stroking it in the third quarter, rode their starters for the majority of the quarter, and held a 13-point lead at one point. It looked like the Raps were finally going to break the game open. But again, the Suns reeled in the Raptors and actually ended up enjoying their best quarter of the night in that third frame.

Phoenix finished the third on a 17-4 run to even the ball game up after three.

The fourth quarter was a game of runs, as the Raptors once again opened with a 6-0 run and the Suns, once again, responded. A 9-0 run put the Suns in front for the first time since a 6-4 lead in the game’s opening minutes. All of a sudden, a game that the Raptors had controlled from the start was slipping away.

Luckily for them, the Suns began to show their fatigue at the worst possible time, with the game on the line. Phoenix got sloppy on the offensive end, leading to leak outs and fast breaks for the Raptors, and inevitably, an 11-2 run that should have finally put this one away for the Raptors.

Instead, Toronto failed miserably, as their inability to do anything against the Suns’ late zone defence and their inability to guard the three led to one last run; a 15-2 run by the Suns.

And just like that, a game that should have resulted in win no. 21 ended up as loss no. 51 for Toronto. That’s 14 straight losses to the Suns and 18 straight losses to Steve Nash for Canada’s lone NBA franchise, dating back to 2001.

But it wasn’t Steve Nash that decided this ball game. It was the Suns’ bench, who dominated the Raptors reserves, 63-40 , and were the reason the Raps were never able to pull away.

As for the starters, Bargnani was putting together quite the game through three quarters, but dropped off down the stretch. DeRozan had a decent ball game, but also failed to take over when it counted. Jose Calderon had a phenomenal 13 assists without committing a turnover, but never really looked to be aggressive with his own shot. Amir Johnson is clearly not 100 per cent, and in a lost season, shouldn’t be out there risking further injury.

That leaves James Johnson, who I thought was very good on both ends of the floor tonight, but failed to see any action in crunch time and finished with just 23 minutes in what was probably a poor decision on Triano’s part.

In Jay’s defence though, he probably thought Leandro Barbosa was a better option to close things out, and he had fair reason to assume so. Barbosa was 6-of-11 for 14 points in his return to the desert, and received a nice ovation when he first checked in.

Speaking of returns, aside from a flurry of threes in the first quarter, Vince Carter was uncharacteristically quiet against his former team, though I guess it’s different for him without 20 000 people booing and yelling mostly well-deserved obscenities at him. I have to agree with Scott’s assessment of VC earlier today.

Next up for the Raptors is a back-to-back in the Bay Area on Friday night and L.A. (to face the Clippers) on Saturday night. Both teams are better than the Raptors, but Toronto should be able to deliver at least one entertaining game out of the two, and could very well steal one.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 34 Min, 19 Pts, 9-20 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl (That’s back to back eight-rebound games for DeMar)

Suns Player of the Game: Aaron Brooks – 34 Min, 25 Pts, 9-16 FG, 4-7 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 4 Reb, 8 Ast, 3 Stl

Goat of the Game: Reggie Evans – 15 Min, 0 Pts, 0-2 FG, 6 Reb, 2 TO, -7 (We all have bad days, even Reggie)