In the locker room before the game tonight against Maccabi Haifa, James Johnson was pumping up Lucas Nogueira with words of encouragement. This may be a preseason game, and it may be against a non-NBA team, but you still want to win.
Well, the Raptors did win 92-85 against a cagey Haifa team that refused to be put away. After a sloppy first quarter that ended in a 19-19 tie, the Raptors started to assert their NBA credentials and pull away. By the third quarter the lead was sitting comfortably in the 14-18 point range despite some ugly Raptors turnovers (they had 26 in the game).
What was that I said about underdogs having some bite? Haifa, led by the fine shooting of Jeff Allen (10-16 from the field), stormed back. In fact, they stormed back so much that one of their players, Leroy Hickerson, managed to get a technical for taunting. Amazingly, Maccabi Haifa eventually had a five point lead and the Anthony Parker Maccabi nightmares started playing.
But then the man they call Bebe - who proudly showed off his initiation-related pink hat before the game - got to play. With the game flying out of control Coach Dwane Casey stuck with a lineup of Bebe, his fellow Brazilian rookie Bruno Caboclo, Greivis Vasquez, Will Cherry and James Johnson. Vasquez poured in a cool 15 points (on 5-10 shooting), Johnson went for 10 points, and Bruno chipped in four points (missing both of his three point attempts), to go with two rebounds and a block.
The story of the game though was Bebe and his drive for folk hero status. With eight points off of free throws, a dunk and a put back, it seemed like he was everywhere on the court. Nogueira secured two blocks in the game but changed numerous shots as the fourth quarter ticked away.
Maybe it was just a flash-in-the-pan bit of preseason myth-making, or maybe Bebe has the potential to be something special. Perhaps the urgent pre-game words from Johnson resonated. Whatever it was, the Raptors are presumably grateful.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/RaptorsHQ">@RaptorsHQ</a> BEBE WILL NOT BE DENIED</p>— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) <a href="https://twitter.com/ekoreen/status/525077988182740993">October 23, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Next up for the Raptors are the New York Knicks on Friday in Montreal. But before that, what did you guys think of the game?