A long time ago, I was an elementary school student.
During those days, we all enjoyed playing a game of soccer now and then, but at that time, we played with older kids. These older kids thought that they were great and well, I was picked on because I was smaller.
One day, the bullying was particularly harsh for reasons that I no longer remember. When I got home, I was pretty upset, but my dad told me that this would not be the end of my tough days.
Every day is tough for lots of different people, and he asked me what I was going to do? Was I going to run away and not go to school? He told me, "Everyone has it rough. So you should learn to live with it and stand up for yourself."
The next time we played, I slide-tackled a kid about twice my height and two grades older than me...
In the tail end of a back-to-back, the Raptors would be facing yet again, a healthy, championship-contending, big bad Celtics squad led by one Kevin Garnett. Garnett's attitude has been widely lauded as being a great motivator for his team, and it is with his work and tireless need to win that has brought the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference yet again.
However last night, the Raptors were eager to make up for a slow start to their game on Sunday, and in the first half, tossed about everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink at the Celtics.
The club battled hard in what was an incredibly entertaining match, one that took overtime to decide after an amazingly clutch 3-pointer from Andrea Bargnani to tie things up with a little over a second to play.
Bargnani in particular seemed to find himself in the right place last night, and picked his chances to attack the Celtics interior. Finishing with eight rebounds and three free throws, Andrea was the much-needed secondary scoring presence necessary if the Raptors hoped to win. However while he continued his excellent play of late, it was not his night that would tell the story of this close-fought, overtime loss. Instead, we have to look to Toronto's guards.
Roko Ukic and Will Solomon combined for 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono combined for 1 of 7.
Without a doubt, our point guards were on fire for most of the game, and while Will Solomon made some questionable decisions throughout the night, Roko Ukic seemed to keep up with Rajon Rondo and gave the Raptors a steady hand at the helm. Of course, Solomon also hit a big three pointer to keep the Raptors in the game in the fourth when Boston threatened to pull away.
However, it's simply unacceptable to have our two best shooters in Kapono and Parker, play so poorly for the entire game. Against the best teams in the NBA, you need to have at least a little consistent production from your veterans and higher paid players, and get some extra boost from players that you don't normally count on. Without a doubt, it was the shooting malaise from these two that wasted the effort of our temporary point guard tandem.
But in my opinion, the Raptors just didn't keep the pressure up in a consistent manner, and against a team like the Celtics, if you give them an opening, they'll try to make a hole. Give a guy like Ray Allen daylight, and he'll bomb you from downtown all night long. Allow Paul Piece room to operate without setting some hard screens on the guy, and he'll light you up for 39 points. For the first half, the Raptors gave themselves a large lead, only to allow it to get wiped out in the latter half of the third and the entire fourth quarter thanks to the evaporation of an offensive scheme. The Raptors simply refused to bang with the Celtics nor would they attempt to set damaging screens on players such as Paul Pierce.
And that is where the heart of the matter lies.
When last the Raptors exited from TD Banknorth Garden, Kevin Garnett used his influence to intimidate the refs, get into the head of Chris Bosh, and talk trash and taunt Jose Calderon. The fans egged him on, loving every second of it, Chris Bosh trusted in the strategies of Sam Mitchell, even though the Raptors clearly lost the game due to Will Solomon's inability to play a team game, and we here at the HQ were wondering why no one was standing up to Garnett.
But here's the deal.
A team full of intimidators, like bullies, cannot be finessed or reasoned with. No, not everyone on the Celtics is a hard-nosed thug, but with big bodies like Davis and Perkins fighting along side KG and Paul Pierce, the intensity from Garnett is easily spread throughout the team. A kid like Rajon Rondo, for example, gets the gall to challenge the best point guards in the league on a nightly basis because of his teammates and the people that surround him.
No, I don't believe this is an unfair advantage, but simply the personality of the Celtics.
And the Raptors? The Raptors are simply a "nice team".
It's why while Chris Bosh's numbers are nothing to scoff at, he was far from being the dominant player he's been several times this season.
It's why the Raptors still could not find a way to motivate Jamario Moon to grab more than one rebound.
Unfortunately, the only person with the right mentality to combat the situation was Jay Triano.
You see, with the game already out of reach, I found his timeout call at the end of overtime to be very interesting. It was as if he was saying to Boston and the fans in the arena that he wasn't going to take any of this lying down. In my heart, I felt that Jay Triano was showing his players what it truly meant to be Canada's team, and while the result was a horribly shot Bargnani 3-pointer, the message is clear:
In the face of a bully or in the face of intimidators, you might lose. You may even get humiliated every once in a while. But if there's one thing you're going to do, you're going to fight to the bitter end, no matter who the opponent is.
Because that's how you overcome bullies and intimidation.
It is, afterall, the Canadian way.