Raptors-Lakers: How Do You Like Toronto Now?
January 27, 2010 · Print This Article
by Stephen Brotherston… On an early Sunday evening, a crowd of over 20,000 people watched the Toronto Raptors gut out a hard-fought win over the Western Conference’s first place team and last season’s NBA champion L.A. Lakers.
The game was easily the most exciting and intense of the Raptors season to date: A game won by the Raptors in the final 1:26 by scoring the final five points and defending Kobe Bryant into three missed jump shots.
It was Andrea Bargnani, who scored 12 of the Raptors 24 points in the fourth quarter, driving to the basket and finishing a reverse lay-up plus the foul with 1:16 left to bring the Raptors within one point.
And it was Hedo Turkoglu, who Jay Triano trusted with 11 seconds left in the game, driving to the hoop and getting fouled at least twice as three Lakers converged to stop the lay-up attempt. Turkoglu calmly drained both free throws to put the Raptors up by one with 1.2 seconds left.
And, as Matt Devlin should have said, “How do you like me now!”
Earlier in the season, Raptors TV personalities actually asked Bargnani how he could help Bosh get his game back on track. On two occasions, Triano actually sat Bargnani on the bench and watched winnable games slip away as the Raptors were unable to score.
But now, how do we like Bargnani? Even his biggest detractors have to admit Bargnani has been making huge contributions at both ends of the floor for some time now.
Bargnani’s amazing driving lay-ups and dunks have become a part of every Raptors game this season. Multiple block nights are commonplace.
And in this game, Bargnani dueled with two of the league’s premier big men and held his own at both ends of the floor. He matched the Lakers young center Andrew Bynum (21 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) with 22 points, eight boards, and a block of his own.
But it was Bargnani outscoring Bynum when it mattered, 12-2 in the fourth!
Bargnani’s reverse dunk in the first quarter was something special. And in the fourth quarter, he answered his critics questions about his ability to be the go to guy when it mattered. With Bosh held to just two points over the final 17 minutes, the Raptors went to Bargnani for scoring.
For the month of January, the much maligned Hedo Turkoglu has struggled with his shot. And some fans and media seem to be only able look at the stat sheets to evaluate his performance—they should really get out to a few games!
So how do we like Turkoglu now? Hitting the game winning free throws against the Lakers has to count for something!
Like in the Raptors last win against Milwaukee, Turkoglu contributed a lot more than showed up on the stat sheet.
Turkoglu made the Lakers’ Ron Artest the invisible man. Artest was held to just five points on 2-8 shooting, with one rebound and three assists. And when the Lakers took out Artest to go smaller, Turkoglu guarded Kobe and did a good job on the league’s best player as well.
Turkoglu did shoot poorly in this game, going 1-6, but he was 6-6 from the free throw line, had five assists and a block. Like in the last game against Milwaukee, Turkoglu helped make the Raptors more effective than their opposition in the fourth quarter.
Anyone complaining about Turkoglu’s hard-fought performances over the past couple of games just hasn’t been paying attention.
Other players who have felt the fans wrath lately include Jose Calderon and Antoine Wright.
Calderon played in only 15 minutes as it took two stitches to close a gash over his eye after being hit collecting a rebound in the third quarter. But Jose did manage a team high five assists, three of which came in five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Wright played only 10 minutes and collected just one rebound. But he played good defense and was Triano’s choice to guard Kobe in the final 15 seconds of the game.
And how do we like them now? We should! They did what was required when it was needed and helped the Raptors win this game. It is hard to know if media and fans appreciate just how much they contributed in limited minutes.
The Toronto Raptors did get off to a poor start this season and it took all of December to make up for it. Only recently has the ACC been filling up again for Raptors games.
But for the second time in January, the Raptors have fought their way back to a better than .500 record by beating the best teams from the Western Conference.
So how do we like the Raptors now? In January, the Raptors have beaten the San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, and L.A. Lakers.
The Raptors are 7-5 so far this month, only losing games that have been part of difficult back-to-backs, each of which started with either Boston or Cleveland.
While there still seems to be some lingering doubt about just how good this Raptors team can be, it is now well past time to show the hometown Raptors some love.
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