Jones on NBA: Wright is Raptors closer

February 2, 2010, 12:50 AM

While most of the media in Toronto has been focused on the struggling Leafs and Sunday’s trade for Dion Phaneuf, the Toronto Raptors just went about their business yesterday, winning their fifth straight game, 117-102 over the Indiana Pacers.

If Leaf fans want to see post-season action at the Air Canada Centre, they might want to think about jumping on the Raptor bandwagon.

True, nothing is certain, but at least the Raptors bus is moving, and in the right direction to boot.

Ho hum, another win by Toronto yesterday, or was it? There were a couple things that should be mentioned and are worth noting.

First off, Hedo Turkoglu suffered an injury as he sustained a small non-displaced fracture of his right orbital bone. It may not turn out to be a big deal as Turkoglu will undergo further evaluation in the upcoming days but it just shows how injuries always threaten to derail any team’s success. The other point of note was Toronto allowing a 16-point lead to dissipate and you wonder if that was Indiana’s “chuck and duck” style of play or the Raptors getting a bit complacent.

I tend to chalk it up to the former as opposed to the latter but make no mistake it was Toronto’s defense that helped them close the game on a 20-5 run after the Pacers tied the game at 97 apiece.

Toronto cranked up the resistance in the second half holding Indiana to 14-of-36 (39.9%) from the floor and harassing the Pacers into a six-of-17 (35.3%) final quarter. It is the fifth straight contest that Toronto has held its opponent below 43% in the final frame.

One of the main reasons for Toronto’s success continues to be the play of the reserves. Jose Calderon has settled nicely into the role of orchestrating the bench brigade and has developed good chemistry with Amir Johnson. Antoine Wright continues to play well as he put up a season-high 15 points yesterday and is also doing his share of the rebounding averaging five boards per game in his last five outings. But what is more important is something that the boxscore can’t measure and that’s his defense against the opponent’s top perimeter player.
“It’s almost like Antoine’s like our closer,” Triano told The Toronto Star. “He comes in and guards the best guy at the end because he can pressure the basketball, he can fight through screens, he can help and he’s quick enough to get back. He’s like a utility guy out there who just finds ways to stop guys.”

Can Toronto run the table and make it nine straight wins before punching out and relaxing for a few days at the all-star break? The words of a former NBA coach always resonate with me when he said never underestimate how close you are to turning it around and going good when things are bad and vice versa.

You can be sailing along and suddenly fall on your face.

“As much success as we’ve had the last month, it can all go downhill if we don’t concentrate,” said Chris Bosh.

Did anybody see the offensive foul call against Paul Pierce with Ron Artest guarding him duirng the Lakers win over the Celtics on Sunday? Not sure if it was bad positioning by the official or maybe a case of one reputation being bigger that the other. It sure looked from this vantage point that there was minimal contact by Pierce as he pulled up for a jumper that would have put the Celtics in the lead but instead was called for the offensive foul.

The replay showed that there was incidental contact and what sent “Ron-Ron” stumbling backward and landing on his wallet in the photographers bay was the old boxing trick. You know the one that Chuck Wepner used to put Muhammad Ali on the ground as he pushed him after stepping on his foot. Well, Pierce and Artest got their feet tangled and Artest losing his balance going backwards got the call and the turnover.

That’s all Kobe Bryant needed as the Black Mamba put the bite on the Celtics allowing the Lakers to win the game.

Speaking of camera bays, New Orleans all-star guard Chris Paul is due for surgery on his left knee after banging it on a camera during the Hornets overtime loss to Chicago. Hmmmm, wonder if they will think of moving the camera dudes to a different location. It has always been very dangerous and fraught with disaster having TV cameramen and still photographers sitting on the baseline, but what’s the league to do? It is expected that Paul may miss a month of action.

And speaking of turning bad into good, weren’t we hearing about the end being near in Chicago for head coach Vinny Del Negro just a short while ago? Not so fast as the Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the East right now and have the Los Angeles Clippers in their cross-hairs as they try to get their sixth straight win Tuesday night at home.

See what I mean about how quickly things can change.


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