What’s ugly on both sides and good in the middle?
The Toronto Raptors 2009-10 basketball season.
A slow start that only got worse was turned into a strong charge that looked like a rookie hitting the wall after the All-Star break. The Raptors season in a flash looked like this:
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The 5-5 start to the season was actually encouraging. The Raptors were trying to integrate nine new faces into their line-up. Taken together with a revamped coaching staff, early season hiccups were to be expected.
The Raptors beat the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers 101-91 on opening night in the first of several big wins during the season, and Chris Bosh played out-of-his-mind for the first 10 games averaging 27.7 points and 11.6 boards.
During the next 10 games, the Raptors lack of cohesion come to the fore as the team went 2-8 giving up 116 points per game. A five game losing streak was punctuated by a 115-146 loss in Atlanta.
At 7-13, the Raptors looked like a team that was falling apart. But things were about to change.
A team meeting following public statements from Antoine Wright and Jarrett Jack, that brought Raptors President and GM Bryan Colangelo out of his office to find out what had happened, seemed to turn things around.
In the next 35 games, Toronto went 24-11 and was solidly in fifth place in the East. The Raptors were within easy striking distance of the faltering Boston Celtics.
Jose Calderon was lost early in December to injury for a month and Jarrett Jack was handed the starting role. A team that began to win just before Calderon went down didn’t miss a beat.
The much maligned Marcus Banks proved to be a capable back-up on most nights. Even winning some unexpected admiration and support from the fans.
At the All-Star break the team had tied the franchise record for wins to that point in the season with 29. Playoffs for the Raptors looked to be a virtual certainty.
During this period, the Raptors were not unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination. But they played well on most nights and accumulated some impressive victories.
With a certain measure of revenge for seasons past, the Raptors demolished the Detroit Pistons at the Palace 94-64.
And for the benefit of their home fans, the Raptors defeated:
Andrea Bargnani found his defensive presence during this 35 game stretch and racked up 16 multiple block games. His post defense in Raptors wins against some of the league’s best big men was impressive.
Then in the first game back after the All-Star break, Chris Bosh injures his ankle blocking a shot and the Raptors winning ways came to a screeching halt.
In the 11 wins after the break, the Raptors only managed to defeat teams with winning records twice and lost to the likes of: Golden State (twice); Philadelphia 76ers; and the Sacramento Kings.
Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
- Hedo Turkoglu, who fractured the orbital bone in his face earlier, broke his nose.
- Chris Bosh, struggling to find his game after returning from his ankle injury, broke his nose and mustache bone.
- Antoine Wright tweaked his ankle and then sprained it badly enough to be lost for the season.
And post All-Star break, games the Raptors had been winning turned to losses.
- OT loss to the Grizzlies 102-109;
- OT loss to the Cavaliers 118-126;
- Road loss to the Lakers 107-109 on a Kobe game winner;
- Loss to Denver 96-97 on Anthony’s buzzer beater;
- Road loss to the Heat 94-97; and,
- The painful home loss to the Warriors 112-113 when Bosh missed the lay-up with time expiring.
But the Toronto Raptors playoff hopes were still intact at game 80 of the season when the ninth place 38-41 Chicago Bulls arrived in Toronto to play the eighth place 38-41 Raptors. The Raptors holding the tie-breaker.
The Bulls destroyed the Raptors at every turn in a 104-88 blow-out that Toronto was never in.
The Raptors didn’t give up after the embarrassing loss to the Bulls and easily took out the hapless Pistons and the half-hearted Knicks to close out the season.
Off note, Amir Johnson had his only 20 point games of the season with 21 against the Knicks and a career high 26 against his former team, the Pistons.
But it was too little, too late as Chicago now held the one-game advantage. It would be the Bulls facing the Cavaliers in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.
When the Raptors were functioning with all pieces in place this season, they were a team to be reckoned with. But as was often noted, this particular group of coaches and players seemed fragile. And not in the injury sense.
The Raptors were slow to adapt to change at the start of the season and slow to react to change as they faced adversity during the season. In all, it leads one to believe change is in the works.
And change will happen. The Raptors have several players who may or may not be returning.
- Chris Bosh is in the option year of his contract and it appears that he has no intention of picking up that option.
- Amir Johnson is an unrestricted free agent.
- Antoine Wright is an unrestricted free agent.
- Rasho Nesterovic may retire?
- Patrick O’Bryant will not return.
- Sonny Weems is a team option. (Raptors have to pick that up – don’t they?)
Not to leave out the impact of Bryan Colangelo’s willingness to make deals.
After the inability of the Raptors to hold onto a playoff spot with just three games left in the season, something has to give.
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