Yes, it was the Jeremy Lin show last night at the Air Canada Center but the HQ takes a look at something else this morning - how last night's loss again emphasizes Toronto's need for top-level talent.
Iman Shumpert is a 6-5 guard for the New York Knicks.
The former McDonald's All-American was drafted out of Georgia Tech, where he averaged 17.3 points and 3.5 assists per game.
There is nothing remarkable about these numbers, many college players put up similar stats en route to the NBA.
However Shumpert ended up being drafted a lot higher than many originally projected, thanks to his incredible athletic and physical traits, ones that quickly distanced himself from many other players at last year's draft combine.
From the Draftexpress recap of Shumpert's performance at said combine:
"Iman Shumpert stole the show at the combine, looking like clearly the most physically gifted player in this entire draft class."
Of course, physical gifts don't always translate to individual success on the basketball court, but they certainly can help a team out in various situations.
Situations like...well, let's say an opposing point guard is torching your team, scoring 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting? Would it make sense to have said physically gifted player, guard the opposing point guard in effort to slow him down offensively?
No brainer right?
Well with five minutes left in the third quarter, and with the Toronto Raptors leading the New York Knicks by 11, 64 to 53, that's exactly what Knicks' coach Mike D'Antoni did, inserting Mr. Shumpert to guard the en fuego Jose Calderon.
Sure, it wasn't maybe that simple in terms of explaining the game's final outcome, but lost in the Jeremy Lin hysteria was this and a few other subtle adjustments by D'Antoni, ones that helped New York overcome the double digit deficit that they had been trying to overcome essentially since the game tipped off.
Wait...you thought I was going to recap this one by spouting the virtues and god-like abilities of Jeremy Lin?
Not so fast.
See while the rest of the world was caught up in the hysteria of Lin adding to his admittedly surreal story, yes, via a game-winning three-pointer, I sat on my couch thinking not only about the individual play of Lin, but how the Toronto Raptors once again ended up with the short end of the stick in terms of a final outcome.
This was a game looked to be fully in control of and yet as the buzzer sounded, there was loss number 21 on the season.
Ok so this shot certainly played a major part in the loss:
But even if Lin had missed, the New York Knicks certainly had all the momentum going into what would have been overtime.
Unlike last Sunday's loss to the Lakers that saw the team battle to the very end, this one ended in a fizzle and pop, the pop being Lin's game-winner, the fizzle being the Raptors' play down the stretch.
Missed rebounds, bad shot attempts, key players disappearing in crunch time, this one had it all in terms of "how to lose a game."
But for me it all started with Mr. Shumpert, who tallied four steals in the match and held Jose to 1 of 3 shooting from that key five minute mark on.
One of three.
So not only did Calderon tally only two of his 25 points from then on, but he only attempted three shots!
If you go back and look at the footage, Shumpert simply denied him the ball at every opportunity, using his 6-5 stature and incredible wingspan to disrupt passes that Jose was threading with ease up to that point.
Add on some great defence by the Knicks' Bill Walker on DeMar DeRozan (5 of 12 in 42 minutes of action and an ugly six turnovers), and the offensive well that had been flowing so bountifully for the bulk of the game, dried up.
Again, even if Lin had missed his heroic game-winner, could you actually envision the Raps pulling this one out, the way their offense was playing? Toronto failed to score on eight straight possessions late in the game, tallying only 12 fourth quarter points to the Knicks' 24. Lin equaled that offensive output himself in the game's final Q.
And about that game-winning shot, was Jose playing too far off of Lin?
Perhaps a bit, but considering Lin's long-range shooting stats, he's a 24 per cent career three-point shooter, it's hard to fault Jose too much here. Lin had been carving up Toronto's D in the fourth quarter, and playing off him, daring him to shoot from that far out, was statistically the best chance the Raps had.
Let's turn to the big picture for a minute though.
Last night was indeed a tough way to lose a game but wasn't losses like this what we all thought this season's "best-case scenario" would be long-term? The Raptors go out, compete hard, but lose close games so that in the end, they have a great shot at another top draft pick?
Losses to the Bucks, Lakers and now the Knicks play right into this meme and I'd argue that the surprising story of Jeremy Lin, is potentially a huge plus for Raptors' fans. Until he was handed the keys to the Knicks' offense, New York was threatening to post a worse record than Toronto, something that seemed unforeseeable before the season began, and obviously not a great thing in terms of the Raps' future.
Because again, that's what this season is all about.
The hope is that the team learns from these losses but at the end of the day, the bigger hope I'd argue is that a 20ish win season nets the Raps a true stud talent that helps get the club back on the track towards the NBA playoffs, a stud talent that they're currently lacking.
Iman Shumpert might not be the next Kyrie Irving, or even the next Kyle Lowry.
But his play last night stood out even amongst the Jeremy Lin madness that was taking place on the court because there was no similar response, either offensively or defensively, from any of Toronto's young prospects.
And perhaps that's the biggest take away from last night's game for me.
In a match-up that arguably favoured the DeMar DeRozan's and the Ed Davis' of the team, it was 52 year old Jose Calderon carrying the club on his back, and to me, that spoke volumes about the Raps' need for additional talent.
Talent the club unfortunately has a better chance of attaining if the losses continue to pile up.