The ball starts lower than you'd think before swooping up with both hands and catapulting off towards the net. For Raptors forward Patrick Patterson, even though the outcome is technically in doubt, the motion is the same. As is the belief. Against Denver, with various Raptors struggling again from the field, it was Patterson who dug the team out of the hole it had made.
"It was a good shot," said Patterson afterwards of his corner three that kickstarted the late Raptor rally. "Thankfully my defender helped out in the paint and that caused myself to be wide open and I knocked it down." Patterson was 5-of-7 from three point range (7-of-11 in total) on the night. That was his fourth 3-pointer of the night, but even he admits: "The next one was even bigger."
With the Raptors down 102-99, Kyle Lowry - a sad 3-of-13 from the field - made sure the ball found it's way back to Patterson. The outcome was in doubt, but not really.
For the Raptors this year, this has been the team's defining characteristic: they find unlikely ways to make plays and win. Well, usually. Against Cleveland on Friday, Toronto looked overmatched and outgunned. Everyone seemed to be struggling from the field. But that inner faith remains.
Tonight it came from different sources. It came from Jonas Valanciunas as he powered the team on offense and defense in the first half. He had 18 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) along with 12 rebounds, while battling Timofey Mozgov down low. It came from Terrence Ross who hit a monster three of his own late in the game (this despite shooting 1-of-8 from three on the night). It came from Lou Williams' insistence on shooting his way out of a slump. (Well, OK, two sub-par shooting games for the Mighty LOU is a slump.) It came as the defense ramped up as the game went along.
"You have to continue with it and trust that they're going to fall," said Coach Dwane Casey after the game. "Our guys have confidence in their shots."
For their part, the Nuggets exposed some flaws in the Raptors' East-leading 16-5 record. Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler repeatedly found ways to draw extra defenders and kick out to open shooters. Corner threes were readily available. The Nuggets rallied from 17 points down at one point to take a five point lead late. Unfortunately, unlike the Raptors, that troika of shooters did not have enough support. (Single tear for the career of Danilo Gallinari and his five minutes of play tonight.)
Now it's off to Cleveland for a re-rematch against the Cavaliers tomorrow tonight. Coming off the emotions of an OT comeback win, will there be enough belief?
What did you guys think?