Boy, it sure didn’t look like it was going to happen last night for the Raptors but give them credit. With the exception of another bad third quarter, where they were outscored 30-16, there was a much more concerted effort last night and the results showed. Toronto kept at it and pulled out a win. True, there was no Joe Johnson for Atlanta, but it’s not like Chris Bosh had his best game for Toronto hitting on only 6 of 19 from the floor.
But the last made shot was the biggest one for Bosh as it gave Toronto the lead and the eventual one point margin of victory, 106-105. I know there are some of you that would have liked to have seen Bosh drive the ball at the end of the game with the clock winding down as his jumper was looking a bit shaky all night but consider this point. After missing jumpers, mid way through the fourth quarter he got to the basket a couple of times and it seemed to help him find a better rhythm on his jumper. The step back number that he hit to win it had great cadence.
Jay Triano deserves some credit for that last play as well as he had Amir Johnson in the game. Johnson, a guy who does the dirty work and is one of the NBA’s top 50 offensive rebounders, in limited minutes, was able to keep the ball alive so the eventual winning play could unfold the way it did. But there was even more to it, when Hedo Turkoglu who missed the second free throw knew it was not going in, he yelled that it was off. A minor thing, not really, because Johnson said that once he heard Turkoglu call out that the shot was no good, it sent him to the glass just to keep it alive.
I have to tell you that the defensive rebound off a free throw is the easiest one in the game and the Hawks would surely have corralled that one and changed the course of the game had Johnson not got a hand on the ball. Toronto would have needed a whole lot more help being down a point with Atlanta having the ball with just less than 10 seconds to go. Impossible? no, but certainly more difficult to come up with a victory from that standpoint.
In the country of my birth, the old folks always say “It’s never too late for a shower of rain”, not sure what that means all the time but it’s probably something along the lines of “better late than never” and is that what we might be seeing from Turkoglu… again. It looked he was starting to play better just before the orbital bone fracture and the mask episode set him back. But last night, he looked like a more determined player getting to the free-throw line as he had six trips to the charity stripe. Consider that on the entire four game west coast road trip, Turkoglu had two more free throws than you did as you read this.
DeMar DeRozan was aggressive last night and had a good enough game that Triano felt confident enough to re-insert him into the line up in the fourth quarter. The rookie led the Raptors with seven free throw attempts.
Final Four predictions
OK let’s talk some college hoops. My Final Four changes every time I look at my bracket and right now, I have a “Final 8 or 9″. Don’t worry, I’ll have four for you at the bottom of the page. So what are the real keys to getting to the last weekend in the Hooiser state? First off you need good guard play. Guard oriented teams don’t always win, but they are always a threat, so it’s a must have!! You need leadership from a stud, a “bell cow”, a dude you can give the ball to and say, “go get us something, make a play”. Your team needs to be “battle tested” and hardened by tough games all the way through the season so they know how to react and not panic when they are down or how to play with a lead when they are in front. And finally, this all needs to be blessed by lady luck. Behind the story of every NCAA title banner hanging in a university’s field house is a story of game that they almost lost and were just able to survive.
So how does Kansas feel? The number one seed in the tournament, yet it’s Duke that gets the play in winner and what looks like the easiest route to Indianapolis. In truth there is no easy road to the Final Four but Duke looks like it got a break didn’t it? Me, I still like Villanova in that region – Okay, there’s one of my four for you – but don’t count out Baylor. The Bears aren’t really deep but they are a pretty good team. Personally, I think Duke is going to have its hands full with Louisville in the second round, if the right Cardinal team shows up. Just ask Syracuse how tough Rick Pitino’s Cats can be when they are playing well? Looking for an upset in the south region? Check out the Siena Saints that have been to the second round in the last two tournaments as Purdue is still adjusting to life without star Robbie Hummel who was lost to an ACL injury.
The Midwest Region is the toughest in my estimation. Kansas will have to get past some tough competition in Michigan State, or Maryland. It’s also a region with Ohio State and player of the year candidate Evan Turner aka “Evan Almighty”. Don’t sleep on Georgetown and Tennessee is a squad that has beat Kansas already this season having taken down both the number one and two teams in the coaches poll over the course of the season. Want a sleeper in the Midwest? Look out for Tom Penders University of Houston Cougars squad with the nations leading scorer Aubrey Coleman. I will say that the Coogs are in tough against Greivis Vasquez and Gary Williams Terrapins. “Fear the turtle!!”
The East has Kentucky as the number one seed. How will freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins react to tournament pressure? The Wildcats are talented but the tournament has you playing against teams that you are not “conditioned” to playing against the way you are against conference opponents. Texas is a former number one team. The Longhorns have some talent in Dexter Pittman and Damion James but have not played well recently. Keep an eye on Bob Huggins West Virginia crew and their head Mountaineer, Da’Sean Butler. Others to watch in the east are New Mexico’s Darington Hobson, Clemson’s Trevor Booker, Lazar Hayward of Marquette. Looking for a dark horse? Check out Cornell with NBA coach Randy Wittman’s son Ryan leading the way. The Big Red just about had Kansas beat at home in legendary Allen Fieldhouse before Sharron Collins rescued the Jayhawks.
Syracuse is the number one seed in the west but with the injury to Arinze Onuaku making his status questionable it might be tough for an Orange team that is not very deep. Keep an eye on Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats. Of course all Canadians will be cheering for Gonzaga, always a tournament darling, but this season with four Canucks on the squad, the “Zags” will have more Canadian followers than ever, but, Gonzaga will be in tough against Florida State. The BYU Cougars led the NCAA in winning margin and are led by Jimmer Fredette and could make some noise.
OK, for now, here’s my final four, Kansas, Kansas St. Kentucky, and Villanova… but that’s after I changed it from Ohio St. Syracuse, West Virginia, and Baylor. Ahhhhhh, this is really tough, isn’t it?