Game No. 66: Raptors 98, Nets 67
18,161 people packed the Air Canada Centre to watch the 2011-2012 season finale between the Raptors and Nets. The loser would still have an outside chance to finish tied for the third worst record. The winner would finish seventh-worst or in a tie for eighth-worst.
Once the ball was tipped, the Nets gave new meaning to the word “tank” and the Raptors’ scrubs were made to look like an NBA powerhouse.
Now here are some thoughts on the game, for the last time this season:
1-For the Raptors, Ed Davis, Gary Forbes, Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh and Solomon Alabi all played at least 40 minutes. Jamaal Magloire started. For the Nets, Johan Petro, Armon Johnson, Jordan Williams and Sundiata Gaines played major roles. Those lineups pretty much tell you all you need to know about what this game was all about.
2- The one thing you can say for the Raptors is that the players who saw action on Thursday night at least played with pride. I’m not sure you can say the same about the Nets’ sad sack of a rotation in this game. They were chucking shots, turning the ball over, running into each other, bumbling, stumbling and just doing their best to cause some in the stands to wonder how much Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z paid these guys to take a dive.
3- The combination of blatant Nets tanking and some solid efforts from Toronto’s players led to some inflated numbers for certain Raptors. Most notably, Ben Uzoh recorded the first triple-double by a Raptor (12 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) since Alvin Williams did it way back on March 23, 2001. Until Uzoh achieved the feat, the Raps had the longest triple-double drought in the NBA. Uzoh added four steals for good measure in 46 minutes of playing time. Ben seemed to do everything asked of a 10-day guy and then some in his time as a Raptor this season, and as I’ve said recently, I’d like to see him brought back as the team’s third string point guard next season.
4- Ed Davis got a preview of the Summer League competition he’ll see this off-season and made good with the practice, posting 24 points on a ridiculous 10-of-15 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. But perhaps the biggest indication of the type of team the Nets fielded tonight was the statline put up by Davis’ frontcourt partner, seldom used Solomon Alabi. Solo, who hasn’t even played 150 total minutes in his NBA career, finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks in 40 minutes of floor time.
5- A quick word on the Nets. I know it’s been said before, but if this team doesn’t land a top-three pick, the franchise will be in a world of hurt for the forseeable future. They were bad enough as is. Take away Deron Williams, take away the possibility of acquiring Dwight Howard, and keep them without a lottery pick this summer, and Brooklyn might be getting the worst team in the NBA next season. If there really is an NBA conspiracy to “fix” the lottery, then my money would be on the Nets, for the simple premise that anything outside of the top-three (and therefore a pick that would move to Portland) could be a death blow for the franchise before they even pack up and move. Us Raptors fans think we have a lot riding on this year’s lottery and draft, but no team has as much at stake on lottery night as the Nets.
6-Before the game, Jamaal Magloire took the mic at centre court on behalf of the organization to thank the fans for another season. Magloire mentioned the “p” word for next season (he pretty much guaranteed it), which I thought was ballsy, and probably not something the organization wants to start doing. While I think the opportunity is there if the right moves are made, if the team gets some lottery luck and if Jonas Valanciunas can make an impact, I still don’t think the Raptors should give fans the impression that a playoff trip is expected for next season. I feel like that’s welcoming disappointment and possible disaster. Plus, while I do like the bold statement, I’d prefer it if a player who will have more of a say in whether it happens or not makes the bold statement.
Raptors Player of the Game: Ben Uzoh – 46 Min, 12 Pts, 6-19 FG, 11 Reb, 12 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO
Nets Player of the Game: N/A (I picked a player of the game for both teams in every game I shared my thoughts on this season. I think I’m entitled to this one, especially considering there really wasn’t a Nets player worthy of the honour. If you want to praise Armon Johnson, Johan Petro or Jordan Williams, then go ahead.)
A quick reminder. If the Warriors beat the Spurs by the time you read this, then the Raptors will finish with the seventh-worst record, which brings with it 43 lottery combinations and a 4.3 per cent chance to win the Draft Lottery. If the Warriors lose, the Raps finish tied for seventh and eighth-worst, which will bring either 35 or 36 combinations on lottery night (to be determined by a coin flip), and about a 3.5 per cent chance.
While this is the last time I’ll “foul out” with six personal thoughts until October, we here at RaptorBlog will continue to have you covered throughout the off-season with pre-lottery coverage, pre-draft coverage, player evaluations and the rest of the usual summer stuff, along with some episodes of RaptorBlog Radio along the way. As long as nothing breaks this weekend while I’m recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed, then you’ll be able to find all of your Raptors-related off-season material here.