-The Toronto Raptors halted a two-game losing streak and recent late-game struggles with a 98 to 92 win over the New Jersey Nets this evening at the Air Canada Center. In fact it was second half, and in particular, fourth quarter play, that won this one, as Toronto just didn't have much energy for a good chunk of the match.
-That energy picked up with the tip-off of the second half thanks to Mr. Andrea Bargnani. After scoring only 8 points in the first half and looking a lot more like the Andrea that played against Charlotte, something clicked and suddenly Raptors fans were treated to a Dirk Nowitzki like performance.
-Andrea finished the game with 32 points but 24 of those came in the second half, an inverse performance to what Raptors' fans have been used to seeing over his career. It wasn't just the 24 points though that he poured in. Andrea was simply unstoppable posting up, hitting long-range 3's, pump-faking opponents, nailing turn-around J's...it truly was a sight to behold. And like Magic, the rest of his game came along as suddenly he was diving after loose balls, rebounding in traffic, and made a key pass to Leandro Barbosa for a dagger 3 that put any Nets comeback hopes to bed once and for all.
-This was definitely the Andrea Bargnani show, but he had some help for a change. Jose Calderon was huge in the win, showing those traits that make him much more valuable down the stretch right now than Jerryd Bayless. (Bayless in fact only played 15 minutes.) Calderon finished with 15 points and 14 assists, many of these to Linas Kleiza, who had 18 points himself starting in place of the injured Sonny Weems. Kleiza also hauled in 12 rebounds, a huge stat considering Toronto was getting pounded on the glass early in the game. Kleiza played a much more balanced game tonight, and I've got a feeling that Sonny will be back on the bench when he returns from injury.
-They were led scoring-wise by Brook Lopez' 20 points, and former Raptor Kris Humphries had a double-double with 12 and 12, but down the stretch the team's offense ground to a halt and Jersey beat Toronto at its own game of "how not to close out a win." Jay Triano did a nice job helping the Nets out in their offensive failings thanks to a handy zone deployed at key moments. Considering the Nets are a horrific 3 point shooting team (they hit only 2 of 12 shots in this one), it was effective enough to stall things while Bargs pulled the Dinos from the brink of what looked to be a very embarrassing loss.
-The win was Toronto's tenth on the season, but it should be kept in perspective to a certain extent. The Nets have been a putrid road team (only two wins), and simply don't have much to work with in terms of talent. Yet they were only down by two points in spite of Bargnani's heroics until Leandro's dagger, and as has been the case all season, fans are still waiting for this team to beat some of the league's elite on a consistent basis before they can get too excited.
Teams like the Lakers this Sunday...