In a season that did not promise much in terms of expectations and has had few great moments to it. Last night in Dallas of all places, where the Raptors had not won in ten tries, fans were given something great to remember. The Raptors were a beat up bunch of Dinos heading into this one. Even without Dirk Nowitzki playing, most of us if not all of us expected the under manned Raptors to get hammered by one of the best teams in the NBA minus it's top player. After all the Raptors with more healthy bodies were no match for the Memphis Grizzlies.
But something pretty unexpected and magical happened last night. You first had Ed Davis, the Raptors lottery pick come through with the best night of his young NBA career. In just game 14 of his NBA Career to date, he put up 17 points had 12 rebounds and 3 block and 3 steals. It was one of those moments where it can cause you to be hopefully for the future, for both Davis and the Raptors. You also had Amir Johnson playing with a bad back and logging 42 and half minutes. You had Jerryd Bayless turn an ankle but refuse to take a seat with no Jose Calderon. Only to injury the ankle later and not be able to continue. It was the first time in a long time in terms of toughness someone reminded me of Alvin Williams. I have joked in this blog before if someone shot Alvin in the first half of a game he would have the bullet removed and play the second half. It has been a long time since we have seen such collective grit from the Raptors. I would be just as proud of there effort today in a defeat as I am in the fact they won.
The Raptors showed pride which when you are 10-20 (heading into last night) in the NBA is seldom seen from teams with a record such as that. In a season that has had few bright moments this may perhaps be the brightest. It wasn't the established guys on this team in Bargnani and Calderon that were part of it. It was the new young wave of talent that Colangelo has built. I hope Jose was taking notes on the bench and Bargnani was watching this from where ever he was. This is what Raptor fans want and crave. Julian Wright has a small fan base among hardcore Raptor fans. Why? It is simple because he gives all that he has when he is on the floor. Including last night taking a big charge down the stretch in a win. Why was Matt Bonner popular, aside from his Chuck Swirsky given nickname of the "Red Rocket"? The answer is people believed he gave all that he had on the floor ever single night. Unlike a Bosh or a Carter or even a T-Mac these guys don't talk about it they are about it in terms of effort. You put the heart and desire of guys like Alvin Williams, Jerome Williams, Matt Bonner or Julian Wright into a Vince Carter or a Bosh you would have a player that could be an M.V.P. Bill Russell the great Celtic legend said that "hustle is a talent cause not everyone does it." Heart is also a talent cause not everyone plays with it.
In a season that likely will not have many memorable moments when we look back on it 5 years from now this was perhaps one of them. At a point when Raptor fans had become tired of the losing and had probably lost a bit of their desire and passion, their team gave them some reason to be proud of them. Raptor fans have always really only asked for a few things. They want you to love the city and the country. They want you to go out and bust your tail and try to win. That really is all they want at the end of the day. The hard worker will always have a path to be a fan favourite in Toronto.
While this is as the saying goes just 1 game of 82, last night was more than that. It was a sign that this team will keep fighting and scrapping hard. I also want to give credit to Jay Triano. I have never been comfortable with Jay as the coach. I have had my doubts from time to time. However one of the things I admired about the Raptors under Sam Mitchell was that they would play hard or they wouldn't be playing long for Sam. The fact this team gave that effort under Jay Triano is a credit to him as well. He clearly has his teams full attention and is getting the effort out of them on more nights than he doesn't. While the win loss record is not good the fact this continues in terms of effort is good. Many teams once they reach a certain point turn it on cruise control in the NBA. The Raptors clearly have not done that and are quite literally putting their banged up bodies on the line to prove it.
If you did not enjoy last night's game, then I am not sure what it would take for you to enjoy a game. There was a fight in this team that has been lacking even in the some of the years they were better than they currently are. If those teams had this fight, they might have actually got out of a first round of the playoffs. While the playoffs are not in this squads short term future. When they do built to the point that they are a playoff team let's hope they keep this fire and fight they have shown.
As the title says, today as a Raptor fan you can walk a little taller and feel a little more pride than you likely have in a long time. That was a game worthy of it. The Raptors may have nothing left for the Rockets and lose by 25 but they gave all they had to get a win vs Dallas and that should be commended regardless of what happens on Friday.