Sam Cassell might have had issues with every team he's ever played for.
Sam Cassell might have hated every contract he's ever signed soon after, feeling underpaid.
And Sam Cassell might not look like your average earth-dwelling homosapien.
But Sam I Am is one of those players who has hit big shot after big shot his entire career. And yesterday's game against the Raptors was no exception.
Cassell hit a three-point shot with less than eight seconds left to send his Clippers into extra time where Los Angeles outlasted Toronto 115-113.
Cassell and Elton Brand led Los Angeles with 30 and 27 points respectively but it was their play in crunch time that sealed this win. After Charlie Villanueva missed one of two free throws to leave the door open and the Raptors up by three, Cassell came off an a screen by Brand and nailed the shot from beyond the arc.
Mike James, who was guarding Cassell, got caught in the screen giving Cassell a wide open look. And while it did appear that James was caught in a slightly moving screen, this was yet another example of the Raptors' inability to close out games. The Raptors had a foul to give and even grabbing Cassell's jersey once James realized he was caught in the screen would have been a smarter play. Chris Bosh missed a dunk attempt for a possible three-point play and Villanueva's missed foul shot completed the trifecta of errors that allowed the Clippers to get to the overtime period.
And in OT, the Raptors made several other errors and in the end came up short. Chris Bosh missed a jumper at the OT buzzer to tie the game (his third miss in the final minute of overtime) and Mike James turned the ball over resulting in a three-point-play for LA at the other end of the court. Toronto couldn't get the stops they needed either and as a result, the Raptors allowed a great victory for the team, not to mention their fourth win in a row, escape their grasp.
A win last night would have been a HUGE boost of confidence going into Wednesday's game against San Antonio. But this team should still dwell on the positives from this match and there were many starting with CB4.
While Bosh missed some crunch-time jumpers he played a spectacular game. On top of his 29 points, Bosh had a Garnett-like 16 rebounds (including eight offensive), six assists and a block. His play was a big reason that Toronto actually outrebounded Los Angeles 48-46 and with each game you can see that Bosh is realizing that he is virtually unguardable.
Morris Peterson also had a great game for Toronto hitting a few huge shots and finished with 25 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. When Peterson has games like this, Toronto is usually in the running right to the end and this contest was no exception. In fact a few more made shots from Mike James might have made all the difference.
Aaah, Mr. Space Mountain. Yesterday's game was a great example of why Mike James and resigning discussions is going to be so difficult for the club. It also bodes well for comparitive purposes with the game's hero, Cassell.
James had some huge shots in overtime to keep Toronto close, made some great passes in traffic (very few guards turn the corner on a screen like James) and hit eight of his nine free-throw attempts being about as "clutch" in that capacity as one can be.
On the other side of the coin, James had four turnovers to his seven assists, was five for 20 from the field, took some ill-advised shots and made a "rookie-esque" turnover in overtime which I felt was the turning point in the extra session allowing Los Angeles to tie the game on a Quinton Ross three point play. James plays with the same fire, intensity and competiveness as Cassell but as of yet does not have the same offensive arsenal or experience.
I still feel that James is an integral part in this team going forward but Embry and whoever takes over for him is going to have to take a hard look at the point guard position.
The Clippers on the other hand, look to be set at that position for quite sometime. Even before Sam I Am was brought over in the offseason in a trade for Marko Jaric, the Clippers had drafted Duke recruit Shaun Livingston to be their PG of the future and then this past year drafted Duke senior Daniel Ewing to shore up both that and the shooting guard spots.
But it's Cassell who has been a HUGE reason for the Clippers turnaround this season. After many had written him off after last year's turmoil in Minnesota, Cassell has come back with a vengeance and is once again doing a great job of leading his squad towards a playoff birth.
Given their similarities, Raptors' fans can only hope that Mike James can do the same thing for this club in the near future.