The New York Knicks made a game of it in the fourth quarter but unlike their last contest against the Indiana Pacers, the Toronto Raptors managed to hold onto this one resulting in a 112 to 104 win...
Was anyone else a bit nervous when Nate Robinson's 3-pointer cut Toronto's lead to 8 points late in the game?
Unfortunately i was.
Not simply because of the Indiana debacle last Monday, but so many times this season we've seen the Dinos blow big leads and either barely hang on for the win (Orlando, San Antonio, Philly recently), or end up on the losing side of the coin when all was said and done. Considering the team's architecture, this shouldn't be that surprising as Toronto is still a team of streaky jump shooters for the most part, and last night's game was yet another example of the pros and cons of this type of building plan.
The pros? Obviously the first half where the Raps shot a blistering percentage throughout en route to as big of a lead as 28 points. Toronto could seemingly do no wrong and the Knicks were giving them all the leeway they wanted thanks to some incredibly suspect defense.
The cons? Obvsiously the second where fans saw Toronto's jump shots stop falling as frequently, and some questionable offensive decisions. In the meantime, the Knicks started hitting their stride, and suddenly a lead that seemed somewhat insurmountable, was down to 8.
However unlike last Monday's loss, and even some of Toronto's win the previous week, this time the Raps didn't fold, and managed to execute enough in the game's final minutes to keep NYC at bay. In a game where Bosh was simply good, it was Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani that carried the club and Mr. Turkoglu hit a few key shots down the stretch.
The player I want to focus on though in this morning's recap, is DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan had 19 points last night and got to the free-throw line 14 times. Along with Calderon's shooting display, DD's play was the key reason this one ended up as a Raptors' win, and it again showed just how much of an X Factor he is for this team. Lately, Toronto has been getting consistent production from both Chris and Andrea, but it's been the need for a third player to step up and help in the scoring department....especially give Hedo's struggles.
And DeMar gave the Raps such a boost early, that Raptors' coach Jay Triano even abandonned the flawed "Jack-Turkoglu-Calderon" fourth quarter triumvirate, subbing DD in for Jack to help close things out.
DeMar didn't light the Knicks up over that span, but the offense seemed much more deliberate and precise without that third cook, and New York was forced to keep an eye on DeRozan to ensure he didn't break loose for some more easy forays to the rim.
Imagine if DeRozan starts doing this consistently?
Suddenly then, this club goes from one relying on Bosh and a team of streaky jump-shooters, to one that has various dynamic elements to its offensive attack so that no one game-plan works effectively over 48 minutes.
As well, and i've gone into this at length before I know, if DeRozan is attacking the basket, suddenly Bosh and Bargs have much more room to operate; either open via the drive-and-kick, or even able to rebound any misses thanks to the increased defensive attention on DD.
Last night I'm sure Bryan Colangelo saw the player he envisioned when he made the former USC Trojan the ninth overall pick in the draft.
With Bosh and Bargs zoned in over the past while, and Jose playing at a high level once more, an aggressive DeRozan like we saw last night, could be that key piece that takes the Raps to another level.
Here's hoping we see a continuation of this "next level" progress Sunday, in a tough test against the Mavs.