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January 25, 2010

The Globe and Mail – Raptors Vs Lakers

Raptors earn rare win over Lakers
Hedo Turkoglu’s pair of free throws provides winning points as Toronto overcomes defending NBA champions

Raptors earn rare win over Lakers

Hedo Turkoglu’s pair of free throws provides winning points as Toronto overcomes defending NBA champions.

One game doesn’t make a season. But can one moment make a new season for Hedo Turkoglu?

The Toronto Raptors’ high-profile free agent has looked lost most of his first year with his new team since signing a five-year, $53-million (U.S.) contract to be a playmaker in crunch time, a role he played admirably in his previous NBA life.

But in Toronto? Expectations haven’t met with reality. He was called Mr. Fourth Quarter when he played for the Orlando Magic, helping them to the NBA Finals. Many nights this season it’s a nickname trotted out ironically.

Take for example the Raptors’ penultimate possession in their hugely satisfying 106-105 win over the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in front of an over-capacity crowd of 20,111 at the Air Canada Centre.

Trailing by a point with less than a minute to play everyone on the floor for Toronto touched it before it ended up in the hands of Turkoglu, the 6-foot-10 small forward brought here for the express purpose of making plays in tough situations.

Except Turkoglu didn’t seem to want it. He paused. He thought about it. He dribbled noncommittally to his right and into the corner before flinging the ball desperately back to Andrea Bargnani who was forced to take a rushed, off-balance three.

Turkoglu was shooting one-of-six on the night and just 40.1 per cent from the floor on the year.

Contrast that with the Lakers who merely have to get the ball to Kobe Bryant late in games and watch the most confident player on the planet boldly try to make plays, accepting the inevitably mixed results with a shrug, for better or worse.

It’s all another day at the office for Bryant.

Fortunately for the Raptors – and thanks to some sticky defence by Turkoglu – Bryant didn’t have a game winner in any of the three chances he took in the game’s final moments. His near triple-double – 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists – missing an exclamation mark.

And so the ball found its way back to Turkoglu’s hands one more time with the clock ticking and everyone in the building on their feet; the swells in the front rows standing like they were in some high school gym.

With seconds to play, again Turkoglu paused. And hesitated. And thought about it. But this time, with the clock closing in on zero, there was no choice. He had to go. And driving left he seemed out of control and off-balance. But he caught a break. A foul. Two shots to win the game for Mr. Fourth Quarter.

And this time Turkoglu was the picture of calm and cool, netting both to win the game at the line with the crowd howling and just a tick over one second left.

He said he can’t remember the last time he was on the line to win a game. He made it look like old hat, knocking down both, electrifying the building.

For the Raptors the win was one more line on an increasingly impressive résumé being assembled by a team that is still just 23-22 on the season.

They’re 11-5 in their past 16 games and have now won games against NBA heavyweights Orlando, San Antonio, Dallas and Los Angeles in January alone.

The Lakers may be in the midst of a brutal eight-game, 13-day road trip. But they’re still the best team in the NBA.

“It was a big win,” said Jay Triano who has never wavered in the confidence he’s shown Turkoglu despite marginal return. “[But] I hate to single it out as a great, great win and us hang our hats on that. There’s a lot of basketball we still have to play and we want to use the momentum and keep moving forward.”

Bargnani came back from a sore back and 22 vital points including 12 in the fourth quarter capped off with a twisting lay-up and foul that pulled Toronto within a point with 1:16 to play. Jarrett Jack continued his all-around excellence chipping with 18 points and four assists, including eight in the third quarter to help Toronto overcome a 10-point Lakers lead.


NOTES Lakers centre Andrew Bynum had to fly commercial on Saturday after missing his team’s charter flight to Toronto on Saturday. The Lakers are in the midst of an eight-game road trip that lasts 13 days. It’s the fifth-longest trip in NBA history dating back to 1974-75 when the NBA stopped holding neutral-site games. The Lakers were 1-1 on the trip prior to last night. Los Angeles is in Washington Monday and as defending NBA champions will meet U.S. president Barack Obama, a big basketball fan. Bynum was spotted reading Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father before the game. Toronto is now 15-6 at home and have won nine of their last 10 at the ACC. The crowd of 20,111 was the fifth largest in ACC history. Chris Bosh failed to make at least one free throw for the first time since Dec. 28, 2007.

Michael Grange

From the Toronto “Globe and Mail”

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