Last night for the Raptors was like watching some psychedelic Jim Carey movie. The number 23 kept popping up everywhere. The Cleveland Cavaliers number 23 looked a lot like Chicago's old 23, the Cavs ran their home winning streak to 23 straight games, and the Raps fell behind by 23 early in the first quarter.
On a night when LeBron James became the youngest player ever to score 12,000 career points, eclipsing former record holder Kobe Bryant by a year and eighty-five days or so, it appeared nothing could go right for the Raptors. They came out flat, they refused to play defense and nothing they shot seemed to make it through the net. Even Andrea Bargnani, who ended the game with his lowest point output since being inserted into the starting lineup with 10, shot an air ball. When has that ever happened to the big fella?
Toronto fell into a 19-point halftime deficit, and though they tried valiantly to claw their way back into it in the third quarter, they never truly recovered or found a rhythm the entire game. There's that old basketball adage, "Live by the 3, die by the 3"? Well if we were picking sides, Cleveland lived, shooting a blistering 45.8% or 11/24 on the night. That would mean by comparison, the Raptors died. The team shot an abysmal 1/12 during this game, or good for 8.3%. Toronto's only made three-point attempt came off of the hand of Jason Kapono. Those were the only points he sank the entire evening. The NBA's best free-throw shooting team also connected on only 76.9% of its attempts, as compared to the almost 91% clip the Cavs were shooting at.
The sad thing for the team and fans alike is that you can see the potential the franchise has. When they choose to play defense and sell out to make stops, they are capable. When they put their mind to it and move the ball on offense, they can get almost any shot they want. This perhaps is the most frustrating thing for Raptors Nation, seeing what could be but ultimately thus far, hasn't been. Sure they need some rebounding help, maybe another veteran or two and a slashing wing player. But not as much as they need something that the Cleveland Cavaliers, and LeBron James specifically seem to have in spades: heart and confidence.
You see Raptors, when you believe in yourself and your abilities the sky is the limit. This is not just something we were all told as little kids, but a fundamental fact. Get your head in the game, become unflappable mentally, and your body will follow. It will not work the other way around. Come out with a focus and intensity so great, an unbreakable spirit and an intense desire to win at all costs, and you will see change. Just ask LeBron. His leadership and refusal to lose have brought the Cavs from the basement the Raptors now inhabit, to the luxury of a high-rise penthouse. Is he more talented than you? It could be. Are his teammates that much better than yours? I doubt it. He may be more gifted than any athlete in his day, but LeBron's biggest asset is something all the greats were blessed with. It is located not on his chiseled frame but within his own mind. It's something called determination. Find that Toronto Raptors, tap into that empowering energy, then sit back and watch the results. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Note: Tim would like to offer his thanks for the well-wishes of DinoBlogger. We are still new to this blogging game, and value his experience and longevity. Here's hoping we can forge a professional and understanding relationship, as we ride the slight ups and monumental downs of the the roller coaster that is the Toronto Raptors.