Yes the rest of Canada was tuned in to see how the mens’ Olympic hockey team would fair, but basketball fans in Toronto and the rest of Canada who tuned in to the Raptors – Cavaliers matchup last night were thoroughly entertained.
How could you not be?
Toronto went toe to toe with the NBA’s best team, minus all-star Chris Bosh and was one shot away from pulling off a win. The Cavs were missing Shaquille O’Neal, who suffered a sprained thumb the night before in a victory over the Boston, but they still made due with that LeBron James guy in their line up.
James had his usual productive output against the Raptors, as he led all scorers with a game high 36 points, but it was Toronto that missed a great chance to steal the victory. The Raptors had the ball with the game clock running down and couldn’t convert. As expected Hedo Turkoglu had the ball and after some aggressive takes to the hoop, including an unlikely follow up dunk late in the game, he settled for a jump shot. Surprised? Yep, considering how insistent he’d been throughout the game about getting to the rim.
"I was going to come and look for a (a drive to the rim) but I didn’t see a good path," remarked Turkoglu. "I felt good with the (long three point shot) I made before so I was feeling good and I wanted to take it."
But it wasn’t just Raptor fans that were surprised, some of the Cavalier coaches raised an eyebrow that Turkoglu didn’t drive the ball. He had a slight size advantage on any defender and for parts of the game, Toronto fans saw exactly what they did in the playoffs a few seasons ago. Turkoglu, as a member of the Orlando Magic, always seemed to get to the hoop against the defence of Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon. Yes, he got a good look at the shot and that is all that coaches ask for. It was a shot that Turkoglu could have made and had just knocked down a few minutes earlier but there was a better shot to be had in the estimation of many, including Turkoglu.
"In that situation, I could have taken a better shot instead of taking that three," said Turkoglu in hindsight. "You can’t really say much about it now."
To all the howls of a better call from the bench; a play was called out of the timeout and that’s all head coach Jay Triano could do. It’s up to the players to go out and execute and if they audible at the line of scrimmage the coach can only sit back and watch. However, in these eyes, playing at home, it seemed only natural to put the pressure on both the defense and the officials by driving and not settling for a jumper.
Overtime was all Cleveland and that helped produce Toronto’s second consecutive home loss, tightening up the scramble for spots 5-9 in the Eastern Conferences playoff race.
The other thing that caught many off guard last night, including the Cleveland coaching staff was the play of Reggie Evans. The Urban Legend as my broadcast partner Eric Smith likes to call him, Evans notched a season high 13 points and did some serious work in the low post. The Cavs coaches thought that the Raptors may have gone back to Evans because he was so effective early in the game. However after notching all of his 13 points in the first half, Evans did not score in 10 minutes of second half action.
OK folks and one of the perks of the job is getting to rub shoulders with some big shots from the world of pop culture when we see them and can get close enough. Last night following the game, my man E and I had a long chat with actor John Malkovich who is in town shooting a movie. Turns out Malkovich was hangin’ outside the Cavs locker room to meet, guess who? Yep, you got it LeBron James. As for the two radio dudes, LeBron "bah" been there, interviewed him, so it was more exciting to chat with Malkovich.
Turns out he’s a huge hoops fan and we talked both NBA and college ball with him as he went to high school in Illinois. As we can attest to, he can really hold his own when talking ball. He’s up here with a pretty good cast too working on a film about some retired CIA operatives with the likes of Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman.