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Tip-In: Close But No Cigar

Did Toronto actually lose last night?

I mean, I saw the game through its entirety and witnessed the Raps walk off the court with the Pistons holding the edge in final score 98 to 92, but it just doesn’t feel like Toronto lost this match.

Instead, I’m going to refer to it as "failing to win."

And instead of going through mounds of stats to break things down, let’s dive right in...


"Feel better now Franchise?"

"Yes thank you, much."

The fact is, Toronto had every chance to win this game.

They led or were neck and neck through most of it and I couldn’t believe that they simply reverted to their old jump-shooting ways in crunch time and even at various other points in this match.

Maybe it was fatigue.

After all, pulling up for jump shots requires a lot less energy then driving to the hole and the Raps were just coming off a huge win Friday night over the Lakers.

But I didn’t really see that. Players weren’t tugging on their shorts and Sam Mitchell kept his bench nice and tight again even after Friday night’s drawn-out affair.

Instead, I saw something else...intimidation.

In particular, the job Rasheed Wallace did on Chris Bosh.

Bosh shot five for 15 and while he did register his 100th double-double in a Raptors’ uniform, only went to the free throw line four times all game and was the lead candidate in the "jump shooting" elections. It just seemed that all of Sheed’s trash-talk and physical play on CB4 took a toll and maybe added to any pre-existing fatigue. As a result, Bosh was being forced to receive entry passes further and further out on the perimeter and even when he came down with offensive rebounds, he was loathe to go back up with them and instead would kick the ball back out.

Wallace did pick up what almost appeared to be a game-changing technical foul, but his intensity and defence was the difference as Bosh was simply not a factor in the second half for the Raps and Toronto’s offensive flow suffered as a result.

It’s hard to find much fault however with the Raps’ franchise player. He’s been carrying this team on his back the past while and I have a feeling this is just going to be one of those steps in his growth process. In fact, I’m expecting him to come back with the look of R E V E N G E next time these teams meet...and not double-team the likes of Chauncey Billups leaving Wallace open beyond the arc...

But it was not only Bosh that was far too interested in the "Jimmy." Mo Pete, TJ Ford, and even Jose Calderon all took some ill-advised shots in the fourth quarter and Toronto simply didn’t test the Pistons’ interior D much at all. Of course some of the reason for this lies in Pistons’ coach Flip Saunders’ defensive strategies, including an effective zone that caused the Raptors to fire away from outside.

As a side note, after seeing the Pistons beat both the Lakers and Raps, I really think this is a team that could challenge some of the West’s best. The addition of Chris Webber seems to have given the team some of the swagger back that it lost when Ben Wallace defected to Chicago. In addition, the Pistons’ bench looks better than it has in quite some time. The team has confidence enough to give minutes beyond simply Antonio McDyess and Lindsey Hunter (not the case in last year’s playoffs) and Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell both gave Detroit key minutes last night.

The Raptors bench was quite good as well with Morris Peterson and Andrea Bargnani keeping Toronto within striking distance at points in the fourth quarter, but in the end the Pistons’ starters were too much.

And this recap would definitely not be complete without mentioning Joey Graham, who had one of the NBA’s top dunks of the year last night thanks to his RIDICULOUS throw-down in Carlos Delfino’s area. Can’t wait to check that one on You Tube...

Finally, after the game’s conclusion, besides my thoughts on Toronto failing to win late in the fourth, I also started to think that this could be the start of a great rivalry. Besides geographic proximity, the Raptors truly appear to be a team on the rise and Detroit (assuming they re-sign Chauncey Billups this off-season, doesn’t appear to be falling off anytime soon. Both clubs play a team game and have an assortment of players who complement each others’ styles and I’m hoping that last night’s contest is the start of some budding animosity.

Yes Toronto has a somewhat of a current rivalry with the Nets, but I really think that New Jersey’s best days are behind them after this season.

And therefore, bring on the Pistons...