I’m not sure which of the recent wins was more satisfying. Turkoglu coming up big with two free throws to win it against the best team in the league (causing them to drop below Cleveland in the standings) was nice. But as well as the Raptors played, the Lakers missed several chances to take the game away from the Raptors before those free throws.
The win against Miami, though, was a comeback win that meant more in the standings than the one against the Lakers. It was nice to see them take control of a game against a team on the same level, talent-wise.
And how about that bench. I don’t remember the last time they were outplayed by the opposing bench. Belinelli, Calderon and Johnson as well as Wright and Weems, are as strong a bench as the Raptors have ever had. It says something that both Belinelli and Calderon were on the floor at the end.
Speaking of being on the floor at the end, a stat that might surprise you is that, since December 4th, when the turned the season around (going 17-9), they are 6-1 in games decided by 5 points or less. That’s a compliment to both the coaching staff and the players.
So Bosh made it to the All-Star again. Okay, no one is surprised. Is anyone surprised that Bargnani didn’t make it? They shouldn’t be. Bargnani is having a career year, but his averages over the season (17.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) are not overwhelming, and while it may seem like he’s been playing better lately, his averages, month to month, have remained fairly consistent. Ironic considering that consistency has been a problem with him this season.
Horford was an iffy call, but he’s on one of the top teams, so his stats are overlooked a little. Quite frankly, if Brook Lopez was on even a half decent team, he should have been an All-Star since he’s probably the second best center in the East. I also would have looked at Joakim Noah at center or even Andrew Bogut, both of whom have much better rebounding and defensive stats than Bargnani. Of course, a team’s record has a huge impact and Chicago certainly is not going to send two All-Stars to Dallas, which is the case with Toronto, too. Only top teams send more than one player to the All-Star game, and the Raptors are not in that category. Not yet.
I am glad to see Deron Williams finally get an All-Star nod, since he’s been one of the best PG’s in the league since his second season and would be a perennial All-Star if he were in the East.
A month ago, I would have been surprised by the inclusion of Derrick Rose. He never looked completely healthy for the first couple of months of the season, but has improved every month where, for the month of January, he’s averaging 23 ppg and 6.5 apg and is one of the main reasons the Bulls are now fighting with Charlotte, Miami and Toronto for the fifth seed.
Speaking of this, one game separates those four teams right now. It’s going to be a dogfight the rest of the year (no, I didn’t mean the other kind). Any slippage from any of those four teams could be disastrous. Thankfully, the Raptors have 8 or their next 9 games (including tonight against the Knicks) are against sub-.500 teams and and 3 of the 9 games are at home. However difficult their schedule was early, it’s now paying off with easier opponents, more home games and fewer back to backs. Of course, it gets a little mre difficult after that…
If DeMar DeRozan is upset about not making it onto the Rookie-Sophomore game roster, he should remember than Kevin Love was also strangely omitted from that game. He’s now, arguably, the second or third best player from his draft class (and it’s a pretty good draft class).
ONE MORE THING
In honour of Apple releasing the iPad, which is actually a lot cooler and going to make a bigger impact that some critics seem to realize, I’ve decided to add one more thing (Apple people will understand). If Phoenix wasn’t tumbling so badly in the standings (3-7 in their last ten and are currently in the 9th spot in the West), do you think there’d be so much chatter about trading Stoudemire? It’s a LONG WAY from the first month of the season when they were the top team in the West. It’s looking more and more like Phoenix might not even make the playoffs again, and suddenly Steve Kerr is a bad GM again. Funny how those things work, isn’t it?