It ended up being a familiar situation with an unfamiliar result. It started out looking like it might be an epic disaster at first. The Suns who lost by 40 to Pistons came out strong and took a double digit lead early. By the end of the quarter the Suns lead would be chipped down to 25-19.
The Raptors would continue to scrap their way back into the game in the second but still found themselves down four with just seconds to go. Linas Kleiza got the ball and you expected he was going to chuck up a brick and that would end the second half. He would end up getting trapped in the corner and forced to pass to Kyle Lowy who nailed the buzzer beater three that left it a 54-53 Suns lead at the half.
Andrea Bargnani and Amir Johnson both were question marks heading into this game but would play and would play a big role in the ultimate outcome. Will get to that later, first some thoughts on the newest Raptor Mickael Pietrus who made his debut as a Raptor. He made a couple threes and only shot 2-7 but he had a big impact on defense playing really well in 31 minutes off the bench for an ineffective Linas Kleiza.
The Raptors did out play the Suns in the third out scoring the Suns 29-24 to take a slim 4 point lead into the fourth quarter. It was some guys off the bench that were helping the Raptors maintain the lead in the fourth. Mainly, Amir Johnson, who if you saw the photo of how he turned his ankle against Memphis you are just shocked he did play. He did not just play but he played well leading the bench with 16 points. A lot of those points came thanks to his amigo from another mother Jose Calderon who himself had a 13 point and 9 assist performance.
Things were going well with the reserves and you wondered if Dwane Casey would role with them down the stretch. More specifically if he would leave Andrea Bargnani on the bench, who was coming off his own injury to his ankle and did not play against Memphis. It had been a fairly unspectacular night for him. Dwane Casey said the now infamous word the Andrea Bargnani was his guy “come hell or high water.” True to that statement he would insert Andrea into the line-up down the stretch.
This is where things got weird. At first Andrea would be getting taken to school and you could almost feel the collective groan from Raptors fans. The game had slipped into an all too familiar tight situation and Bargnani was not doing a good job on defense while his offense continued to be MIA. Suddenly something strange happened. Andrea got stuck on point guard Dragic and instead of getting blown by he would use his feet and play excellent defense and force Dragic to throw the ball away leading to an Amir Johnson dunk on the other end. He wasn’t done either as he would play good defense on Luis Scola on the next two possessions and would end up with the defensive rebound and got fouled made the two free throws and clinched the win and pizza for the fans.
It was right out of the Bizzaro World of the Superman comic book. Where everything is the opposite of what it is in the real world. Even on a play with Scola inbounding the ball Bargnani was jumping up and down like on a pogo stick. The Raptors end up with a badly needed win 101-97.
No mention of DeMar DeRozan who is making his performance seem more routine now as he produced 23 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the way on offense. He and Kyle Lowry who wasn’t particularly good in this one produced 15 rebounds from the Raptors back court.
The Raptors now embark on a challenging five game west coast road trip that begins in Denver on Monday who lost to the Lakers on this night. It will not be easy but the Raptors enter it with some form of confidence. If this season does turnaround November 30, 2012 might be a key date as to where it began. It also could just be a blip on the radar for both Andrea Bargnani and the Raptors. Time will tell as we march