Back-to-backs have become the norm in a Toronto season that has ranked amongst the toughest. While New Jersey kept it close, the Raptors still pulled out a 108-99 win. Raptors HQ takes a look at the man who seems to be putting his stamp on the team.
Jarrett Jack may very well be the most important piece of this Raptors roster after all is said and done.
Fighting his way through a sore throat that probably inhibited much of his play for the night, Jack still toughed it out for 40 minutes and was the driving force for his team. Whether it was making the smart pass, the tough interior rebound, or the timely bucket, Jarrett Jack did it all.
And boy did the Raptors need a slap of Jack to wake themselves out of their daze.
For three quarters, the Nets hung around and made life difficult for the Raptors. Brook Lopez and Devin Harris did their little dance for most of the night with some unexpected help from Yi Jianlian and former Raptor Kris Humphries. In fact, Kris Humphries became an unstoppable force in the second quarter and was just hitting one of his "Hump grooves" where just about every shot went in. Managing to grab 11 rebounds as well, Humphries was a key component in creating a double-digit lead in the second quarter.
Fortunately for the Raptors, the Nets defense allowed the Raptors to go on a run of their own starting with perhaps the best out-of-bounds play this side of a failed alley-oop to TJ Ford.
Jarret Jack managed to toss a ball out to a cutting Sonny Weems mid-flight for a wicked dunk.
After that, the Raptors became energized and cut the lead back down to nothing.
With many Raptors making small contributions throughout the game, it was quite the platoon effort from the group. Whether it was Amir Johnson and Marcus Banks providing some much needed relief in the second half, Sonny Weems continual energetic play, or Antoine Wright's hot hand from the corners, the Raptors kept pouring in the offense.
It was just that once again, the Dinos' defense was lagging behind.
It wasn't until the fourth that the Raptors finally decided to tighten the screws just a little bit. Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson started putting their hands in the passing lanes and wrestling the ball from the Nets while Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh held the fort in the interior. Bargnani in particular had yet another subpar performance rebounding the ball, but made up for it in other areas. The big Italian and Brook Lopez battled it out for most of the night with Bargnani registering four blocks. Lopez, who had been averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds for the season was held to 12 points and 3 rebounds thanks to Bargnani's efforts.
And then there was Chris Bosh.
How silly is it that we can say that a 20 and 9 performance from CB4 is now "sub par"? Regardless, Chris Bosh attempted to keep the ship steady even though the Nets continually made a push at the Raptors. As the game wound down, Chris went inside and found ways to score despite only going to the foul line for four free throws the entire game. Because CB4 was so busy keeping his man boxed out, Weems managed to grab 11 rebounds and Antoine Wright managed to grab 7. However, there is no doubt that Chris Bosh left his imprint on the game.
Coming back off an extremely disappointing loss to the Pacers the other night, I wanted to see how long it would take for the Raptors to right themselves. For most of the night, the ACC platoon didn't do much to alleviate my fears and instead provided much of the same defensive effort. In the fourth, the Raptors turned in one good quarter of work to put the game out of reach which is what the doctor ordered on the tail-end of a back-to-back with four essential players with various ailments. The Raptors are continuing to protect their home court and it's that effort that will pay dividends for them when securing their playoff spot.
For the Raptors, putting away the New Jersey Nets yesterday was an important step towards not allowing themselves to be beaten by lesser teams no matter what the excuse.
And that is a mentality from Jarrett Jack that has definitely trickled down throughout the entire team.