The key reason for the 106-89 victory? Team play and an inspiring performance from Rasho Nesterovic.
As discussed in the preview for last night's game, without Chris Bosh the Raps were going to need a complete team effort to secure the W.
In an ugly, drawn out affair against the New Jersey Nets the Raps got double didgit scoring performances from seven guys and left the IZOD Center win an easy victory.
Hedo Turkoglu, after a horrid performance in the Memphis game, looked solid and the bench did another fantastic job. What was most impressive in the victory however was the play of none other than Rasho Nesterovic.
Inserted into the starting line-up Rasho must be applauded for the yeoman's effort he put forth in last night's game. From the opening tip Nesterovic looked like a 30 minute a night type of player showing a nice scoring touch, getting on the glass and even creating for others. His early contributions to the game ensured the Raps started on the right track and got out to an early lead that they never surrendered.
Rasho is a a quintessential pro's pro. He is ready when called upon, doesn't cause problems when the box score consistently says DND-CD and just goes about his business like any good employee. Although I questioned Colangelo's decision to bring the Slovenian back into the fold it is clear to me now that this was a wise decision.
Actually it really has been the smaller moves like acquiring Rasho and trading for Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson that is allowing Colangelo to avoid the much deserved criticism for his bigger moves this past summer. In his time here the Raptors GM has done an above average job in filling out the bench.
Aside from Rasho kudos to Jarrett Jack as well who rebounded nicely after his poor performance against the Grizz. He had a double double and hit some big three point shots to help keep the lead at a sizeable amount. He with Jose Calderon continue to make for a brilliant PG rotation.
The other highlight? The final buzzer.
The game on a whole featured 27 turn overs and it's clear why this New Jersey team is looking to challenge the NBA record for fewest wins in a season. Yi Jianlian simply isn't a basketball player, Jarvis Hayes seems to think he is Steve Kerr despite shooting less than 28% from beyond the arc this season, and this Nets team simply doesn't have any veterans who can show these young guys how to play. Sure there are some nice peices there but Kris Humpheries is one of the teams elder statesmen and we all know the only skill he has to pass on is how to be a ball hog. For those Nets fans out there...good luck the rest of the year.
In short it wasn't pretty but the Raptors did what needed to be done. At the end of the season all that matters is the number of wins, not how you won.
Up next for the Raps? A rare Saturday night affair at the ACC. In the second game of a back-to-back the DInos will face another weak Eastern Conference team in the Washington WIzards.
The Wizards have completely cleaned house and look to be starting from scratch. That being said the Wiz did manage to secure a win last night against a very strong Denver Nuggets team. Without Jamison, Butler, Haywood or Arenas look for a lot of young guys to get some heavy minutes including the likes of JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Josh Howard.
This is another winnable game for the Raps but they will need to key in on the following -
1. Free Throw Shooting - Without Bosh the Raps really struggled from the free-throw line last night which gave the Nets a glimmer of hope, in particular when they went on a run in the third quarter. Shooting less than 70% from the line is just not acceptable. The Raps have to do a better job from the line and get those easy points. Success here will greatly hinge on CB4's availability.
2. No Lapses - Last night the Raps played a solid game for the most part but the energy was not consistent. Washington is only marginally better than the Nets now but they won't just roll over if the Raps allow them to stay in the game. Unlike last night the Raps need to be sure they are focused for 48 minutes, execute and don't play down to their competition.
3. Team Effort - Whether or not CB4 is ready to go tomorrow doesn't change the fact that the Raps will need a team effort to get the job done. It is the second game of a back-to-back and so far this season the team has had trouble getting the job done in these situations. Getting good bench play and a solid start will once again be key for a Raps win.