In the irony of all ironies, Hedo Turkoglu looked on from the sidelines, benched by coach Jay Triano, while the Toronto Raptors for the second straight game were unable to execute down the stretch, losing 97 to 94 to the Miami Heat.
With six minutes left in the game, the Toronto Raptors were up 11.
Then...the jump shots started to fly.
By my count, 10 of the Raptors final 12 shots were jumpers in fact and while some were makes, most didn't find the bottom of the net as had been the case the previous quarter.
The collapse was on.
While the Raptors were chucking them up, Miami took the opposite approach, mixing up their offense, using Dwyane Wade as the catalyst for what would amount to a comeback victory over Toronto, 97 to 94.
So where to point the blame after this one?
On Triano, the overseer of said horrible late game execution?
On Bosh, who after mixing his offence up nicely through three and a half quarters, morphed into "El Jumpo" and even took a 3-pointer during that final stretch, just for good measure?
On the point guards who were unable to find seems in the Heat's defence and exploit weaker defenders like Carlos Arroyo?
On Dwyane Wade, who was simply unstoppable last night, particularly down the stretch?
How about on me for not watching this game live, instead joyfully celebrating my Blue Devils return to the Final Four, and therefore watching the Raps match via replay later?
Maybe I'm off the hook (a bit), but the rest aren't. This was a collective effort in collapse and I'm afraid I can't simply pin it on one factor.
However to me the main issue wasn't necessarily a lack of execution, it was that the late fourth quarter revealed again, the true nature of this basketball club; they're a jump-shooting team which struggles immensely when those shots aren't falling.
If you watch the late fourth quarter again, you'll notice that the J's the Raps took were open looks. With the exception of maybe one or two late-clock scenarios, the rest were good scoring opportunities that just didn't drop. Now the counter-point here of course is that just because you have an open jump shot, doesn't mean you don't fake that shot, and drive it to the hole.
Fine. I agree. But look at this roster. Outside of Bosh, who the Heat began to aggressively double late in the game, Jarrett Jack is really the only Raptor who is well-equipped for this task. DeRozan's handle isn't there yet, Weems can be a bit out of control at times, Wright should put the ball on the deck as little as possible...etc, etc. This is a team of jump shooters so trying to get them to change mindsets, especially when the Heat begin to tighten up the D and put pressure on the offence to react, isn't an easy task.
And this isn't to let Bosh off the hook either. Again last night he was not nearly aggressive enough attacking the rim, and as proof, took only four foul shots all evening, none in that final and decisive quarter. The frustrating thing is that Jermaine O'Neal didn't even play, and while Joel Anthony is quite able as a shot-blocker, Bosh proved on a few occasions last night that he could throw down the hammer on the Canadian pivot's head. So why not do that all night?
The other major piece of this equation though is Dwyane Wade.
Yes Toronto crumbled in the crunch in terms of execution, and didn't get enough from their franchise player. However Mr. Wade played a huge part in this Raptors' loss too. He was unstoppable off the dribble, and when the Raptors did try to contain him with double teams and traps, he simply found open teammates who the buried shots. Udonis Haslem was the main beneficiary of Wade's goodwill on this night, and he finished with 23 points in the win.
So now what?
Does Jay go back to Hedo Turkoglu?
Post-game Triano bristled at even the mention of Turk's name so we'll see. My bet is they bring him in off the bench and see how that goes, although at this point who knows. This season is slowly turning into a circus instead of a playoff race, compounded by the fact that Toronto is now only half a game ahead of Chicago for 8th place in the conference.
The Raps take on the Bobcats tonight in another must-win situation, and the club will certainly have to execute much better down the stretch.
Toronto is suddenly seeing its season circle the drain and the only thing that will stop it is a solid win streak here.
Whether they do it with or without Hedo is another topic all together.