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The Rap-Up: Count the daggers

As the Raptors continue their West coast road trip with three games against sub-.500 foes, we look at all the game-winning buzzer beaters in franchise history.

Phoenix Suns v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

“...3.....2......1.....at the buzzer!”

The game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) is the most electrifying (or gut-punching) play in basketball. Jaw-dropping dunks, ankle-breaking crossovers, and emoji-eyes blocks all have the ability to get you out of your seat. But the intensity and build up adds an extra layer of electricity to a buzzer-beater.

As the Hornets and Raptors cat-fought their way through 47 minutes and 58 seconds of basketball, only to find themselves tied, I couldn’t help but think back to last season’s Hornets/Raps game at Scotiabank Arena. You know what I’m talking about. Jeremy Lamb’s 48-foot miracle heave was the second-furthest GWBB for a team trailing before the shot.

How did I know this? Basketball Reference recently added an index of every GWBB, including details of each buzzer-beater, such as distance, score margin (pre-shot), and who assisted. Keep in mind that the shot had to win the game (so, no Morris Peterson @ Washington), and there had to be no time remaining (Vince Carter’s baseline jam vs. Houston still left 1.6 seconds).

The five players with the most GWBB shouldn’t surprise you: Michael Jordan (9), Kobe Bryant (8, of course), Joe Johnson (8), LeBron James (7), and Paul Pierce (7).

The most impressive of that bunch is Bryant, who had six GWBBs when his team was trailing. Only Jordan and Larry Bird (four each) had more than three.

From a Raptors perspective, Toronto has eight GWBB, with the first three all occurring in March 2000.

  • March 1, 2000: Vince Carter @ Boston (yes, the first GWBB in franchise history just celebrated its 20th anniversary!)
  • March 8, 2000: VC @ L.A. Clippers (from zero GWBB in the first 4.5 seasons, to two in seven days)
  • March 28, 2000: Charles Oakley @ Cleveland (no video found because YouTube doesn’t believe it either)
  • December 20, 2006: TJ Ford @ L.A. Clippers (Chuck Swirsky on the call is the cherry on top!)
  • January 24, 2013: DeMar DeRozan @ Orlando (4 seconds left, tie game, with JJ Redick on the floor? You love to see it!)
  • November 28, 2015: Cory Joseph @ Washington (what a dream come true to hit one while playing for the city you grew up in)
  • January 17, 2019: Pascal Siakam vs. Phoenix (would you believe this was the first to happen in Toronto by a Raptor?)
  • May 12, 2019: Kawhi Leonard vs. Philadelphia (IS THIS THE DAGGER??)

Raptors legend Jose Calderon assisted on three buzzer-beaters, but none as a Raptor. He assisted on one with Detroit: to Reggie Bullock, in Dwane Casey’s first game back in Toronto. He also had two with Dallas, including one assist to VC!

Other Raptors-related hookups include VC assisting on a Marc Gasol buzzer-beater, and Kyle Lowry assisting on a Rudy Gay buzzer-beater — with both happening on the Grizzlies!

Toronto’s been on the losing end of GWBBs 19 times, with no one player doing it more than once. I don’t need to remind you of LeBron James’ only buzzer-beater against Toronto, but it’s somewhat noteworthy that his only assist of a GWBB was one to Damon Jones... at the Air Canada Centre.

As we look ahead at this week’s games, the Raptors continue their Western Conference road trip with three sub-.500 teams that have each experienced their own gut-punching losses this year.

March 3 @ Phoenix Suns

IS THIS THE DAGGER?

Losing consecutive games at home to the Pistons and Warriors? Yes, Kevin Harlan, those would appear to be the daggers to Phoenix’s playoff hopes this season.

You could probably go a little farther back and blame Deandre Ayton’s 25-game suspension for drug use. During that span, the Suns lost five games by one possession. A couple of extra victories with Ayton’s presence swings the pendulum from lottery team to a trip to the playoffs.

Phoenix’s recent loss to the Warriors was a microcosm of the season. The offense came out guns blazing in the first quarter, only to grow stagnant for the remainder of the game, ultimately falling to the worst team in the NBA.

When looking at why this team has struggled, look no further than their leader, Devin Booker. For the first half of the season, Booker was on pace to join the 50/40/90 club, while hovering around the top-5 in scoring. Unfortunately, the second half of the season hasn’t helped Booker’s All-Star snub case. In February, Booker averaged 22.5 points on 41.2% shooting and 34.6% from deep — all well below his season averages.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

The Atlantic Division is the only division where the Suns have a winning record, including victories over every team in the division.. .except Toronto.

Prediction

When these teams matched up on February 21, the Raptors bridged the first and second quarters with a 17-2 run that Phoenix could never recover from. The other positive from that specific stretch of the game was that the lineup consisted of Raptors who are actually healthy to play this game too! Nick Nurse has hinted that the team may be a full strength during this road trip, but that’s a story we’ve heard all too often. Toronto is a resilient bunch that wants to get back to their winning ways immediately, before the schedule toughens up again next week. The Raptors subdue the Suns, 125-107.

March 5 @ Golden State

IS THIS THE DAGGER?

The Warriors have had a year full of daggers. It’s Kevin Durant rupturing his Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, then bolting for Brooklyn. It’s Klay Thompson tearing his ACL in the NBA Finals, and unable to play for all of this season. It’s Steph Curry, injuring his left hand in the fourth game of the season. It’s Bob Myers electing to use all their cap room to sign a free agent (D’Angelo Russell) who plays the one position the Warriors did NOT need (ball-hungry, shoot-first guard). It’s Myers actually finding a team to take Russell’s albatross of a contract at four years and $117 million.....only to take back four years and $121 million of Andrew Wiggins!

The Warriors have been plummeting in the opposite direction since Fred VanVleet shut down Oracle Arena. Golden State’s sudden demise looks eerily similar to San Antonio’s one bad season when David Robinson was hurt, the Spurs fell to the lottery, and Tim Duncan fell into their laps. This is not to say there’s a Big Fundamental in this summer’s draft class, but Golden State could very well trot out a Curry + Klay + Wiggins + Draymond + lottery pick lineup next season.

I realize I was just dumping on Wiggins in the previous paragraph, but he could be Harrison Barnes 2.0 for this championship contender next season.

This season is a different story, unfortunately. It’s rumoured Curry might make his return for this game. Wouldn’t that be interesting if FVV also makes his return!

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

It’s not so much of a fact as it is an excuse to re-post one of my favourite videos from the Finals run.

Prediction

If you think the Raptors have been injury-ravaged this season, consider the Warriors three leaders in minutes played this season. Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks were traded to the Sixers at the deadline, yet still sit #1 and #3 respectively in minutes played for Golden State. #2 on the list is rookie, Eric Paschall. Even if Curry were to return, he can’t single-handedly resurrect the worst offense in the league. But if he were to return, I sure as hell hope Nick Nurse calls for a box-and-one! Raptors take the first meeting of the NBA Finals rematch, beating the Warriors, 120-102.

March 8 @ Sacramento Kings

IS THIS THE DAGGER?

I’m not sure the dagger has fallen yet in Sacramento. Only winning 26 of their 60 games would typically indicate golf season is fast approaching, especially in the Western Conference. However, a combination of untimely injuries and under-performing teams have allowed the Kings to stick around in the playoff race. Their remaining schedule skews towards being easier than others, but that’s also the case for the Spurs, Blazers, and Pelicans — all of whom join Sacramento in being within striking distance of Memphis.

This is a team that’s won 11 of their last 16, including impressive wins over the Heat, Grizzlies (twice), and Clippers (twice — both in Los Angeles!). Toronto will look to pounce on a Kings squad that will be playing on the back-end of a back-to-back. Sacramento will be flying home after playing in Portland against a Blazers squad they’re battling for the 8th spot. Meanwhile, the Raptors will have the comfort of having two days rest!

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

Cory Joseph is the most experienced player on the roster with eight seasons under his belt. By comparison, the Raptors have three players with more experience — Lowry (13 years), Gasol (11), Ibaka (10) — who each have more integral roles than Joseph. Sacramento’s core is also very young with De’Aaron Fox (22), Marvin Bagley (20), and Harry Giles (21) each figuring into the Kings’ future.

Having said that, it’s shocking (at least to me) that the average age of the Kings roster (27.1) is older than the Raptors roster (26.6).

Prediction

Toronto has won the last five meetings with Sacramento, including an earlier date this season where the pesky Kings stuck around in Scotiabank Arena, only to fall 124-120. Similar to the Phoenix recap, the Raptors used the end of the first and beginning of the second to build a huge lead (22-6 run) they would never surrender. Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley won’t be around this time. With Serge Ibaka and/or Marc Gasol possibly returning, I doubt the Kings will be able to replicate the +10 offensive rebounding advantage they had in November. The Raptors will look to expend whatever energy they’ve got left on this road swing (the two days rest should help), to afford the starters some rest on the open-end of a back-to-back. Toronto squeezes by Sacramento, 110-109, in another exciting Sunday matchup.

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Last Week’s Record: 1-2

Season Record for Predictions: 43-17