A combined team effort was needed to beat the best team in the NBA. A combined effort was what the Raptors got to beat the L.A. Lakers 106-105. Raptors HQ goes into this win which reminds them of a game many moons ago
The mood was electric.
Against the best team in the NBA and a legendary player who will be counted amongst the best ever, the Raptors had pulled out a lead with preciously few seconds left on the clock.
The Raptors looked down at their legendary opposition as he aimed to do what he had done many times before.
The ball left his fingertips and everyone gasped.
The ball spilled out and the Raptors and their fans celebrated like they never celebrated before.
As a Raptor fan, it's been quite a long time since we've felt such a complete effort which led to a Raptors win. The name of the opposition was the Lakers this time, but many moons ago, it was Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The expectations and the strengths of the Raptors teams then and now are quite different, but the feeling of the win was quite the same.
Beating a truly quality opponent in a close game just can't be topped.
It didn't come easy, however. In the first quarter, the Raptors allowed the Lakers to simply abuse them from the inside. The problems started with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but by the end of the half, the majority of the Lakers' points were scored in the paint. Bynum, in particular, was nearly an unstoppable force. After missing his chartered flight to come to Toronto, the big goofy Laker effortlessly put the ball in the basket. It didn't matter if it was on an alley-oop or off a missed shot, Bynum was around the basket causing a racket. It's this part of his game that entices so many teams, but his injuries and his attitude towards the game must also drive Lakers fans crazy. While Bynum was fairly effective, the Raptors had some weapons of their own.
Andrea Bargnani in particular, punctuated his return with one of his best dunks ever by charging down a gap in the lane before throwing down an incredible reverse slam to answer an Andrew Bynum play seconds earlier. On the next play, Chris Bosh would be on the receiving end of a quick Hedo Turkoglu touch pass resulting from a push-pass by Marco Belinelli.
The bench players also gave some great work that was needed if the Raptors were to have a chance against the Lakers. Amir Johnson had yet another subtle yet important game by contributing seven points. Nevertheless, the kudos for the bench really belonged to the other Italian on the team, Marco Belinelli. The second half of the Italian contingent was all over the floor with his scoring, attacking the Lakers from within and a perfect touch from the outside. He also defended the passing lanes with zeal. With several key deflections including one in the final seconds of the game, Belinelli was the main countering agent to Jordan Farmar's own bench production.
Marco Belinelli's lone effort was not quite enough as the Lakers sustained their lead throughout most of the game. In the 3rd quarter, the game even threatened to spiral out of hand as the Raptors started off slow before Jarrett Jack took over the night for a second straight game. Proving to be one of Bryan Colangelo's best "value signing" over the summer, Jack has been a vocal leader and has shown a propensity to take charge of games when the Raptors need a little helping hand. It's not something that Jose Calderon does often, and with the core group of starters displaying a general lethargy, Jack's effort has proven to be a much needed kick in the butt. By the time Jack left the game, the Raptors were once again within striking distance.
All that was left were for the Raptors to close the deal for the win.
In the fourth, it was largely the Andrea Bargnani show. If anyone doubts his value at $10 million a year, his ability to play both sides of the court on the fourth last night was awe-inspiring. Going hard at the Lakers, Bargnani made several key baskets including one to give the Raptors their first lead. Bargnani also provided the final field goal of the game, which was a dandy reverse layup leading to a 3-point play to pull the Raptors within one. On the defensive end, Bargnani was a pest to Gasol, stole the ball from Andrew Bynum and was a presence under the basket. Mix in some of the aforementioned Marco Belinelli plays and a couple key free throws from Hedo Turkoglu, and the Raptors managed to pull off a win against the best team in the NBA.
It's not often that we as Raptors fans feel truly satisfied with the fight in our team. Yesterday, the Raptors gave their fans just that. Every single player showed some kind of fight in them. Whether it was Jose Calderon playing through a cut above his eye, Rasho Nesterovic producing some key minutes in the second quarter, or Hedo Turkoglu's free throws, every player found a way to have an affect on the game. A team effort overcame the best team in the NBA because they played as a unified unit. They were relentless in attacking the Lakers and never allowed the Lakers to stay too far ahead. However, perhaps the most important "big picture" point of this win is that the Raptors continued to play their game throughout the entire night. It's a sign of a maturing identity that the Raptors did not simply try to match the Lakers punch-for-punch and shot-for-shot like they did against Boston.
They simply won doing it their way.
And with so many games coming up against sub-.500 teams over the next couple weeks, the Raptors are poised to make a run up the standings.
It sure is a good time to be a Raptors fan.