TORONTO - The Raptors head coach chose to dwell on yet another poor start.
And he was not wrong. The 15-point deficit after a quarter by his Raptors was proof of that.
But the morning water cooler talk around this 94-92 Raptors loss to the Los Angeles Lakers is going to be about the five-second call on an inbounds play that denied the Raptors a shot at the win.
Down one with 4.2 seconds remaining after Kobe Bryant hit a fadeaway 17-footer with James Johnson in his face, Rasual Butler came off the bench to inbound the ball from in front of the Lakers bench and even asked referee Scott Foster to count out the five seconds aloud. If a team can’t inbound the ball in five seconds they lose possession.
“I heard four, I turned to call a timeout and he felt like it was five seconds,” Butler said.
Even when Foster turned to the scorer’s table Butler thought he was getting the timeout but instead Foster held up five fingers which meant a turnover.
Of course with these things you’re never going to get 100% consensus and the turnover on the inbounds was no exception.
“I wasn’t surprised, it was five,” Bryant said afterwards. “I didn’t go to college but I can count.”
Head coach Dwane Casey can count too and he was calling for a timeout from the bench at the same time Butler was trying to get one from Foster but that too went unnoticed by the officials.
Casey wisely chose to keep his thoughts on the matter to himself. Say too much and David Stern will be quick to slap you with a fine.
“I like my money,” he said. “What little bit I make, I like it so I won’t comment on it. We’ll send it to the league and let them review it. It’s a tough call. We thought we called a timeout. Mr. Foster saw it different. That’s his prerogative.”
The Raptors still had one more chance to tie or win it with a three after Bryant was fouled and made just the one free throw leaving the lead at two and still 3.7 seconds left on the clock.
This time the ball got inbounded but with Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa both covered, the ball went to DeMar DeRozan in the corner on the baseline. His three-point attempt fell short as the clock expired.
“It shouldn’t have come down to that last play,” Casey said. “A multitude of things got us there.”
Chief among them in Casey’s opinion was the 34-point fourth quarter the Lakers enjoyed. It’s a bugaboo the Raptors had hoped they had put behind them with a good first-quarter effort Friday against Boston but one that reared its ugly head again Sunday.
“I was proud of the way we dug ourselves out,” Casey said, “but not happy with the hole we dug.”
KOBE DOES IT AGAIN
Nobody on the Toronto roster was surprised to see Bryant get off that 17-footer which turned out to be the eventual winner.
And Casey had no beef with the Raptors defence on the shot either.
“We were trying to send DeMar down in the corner to double team him and typical Kobe, before he could get there he had it off,” Casey said. “It was a spectacular shot. James (Johnson) did everything right, he challenged the shot. If we could have got DeMar there a little quicker ... ”
DeRozan was even more to the point.
“That’s his instinct especially late in the game,” DeRozan said of his favourite player growing up. “That’s why you can’t have a close game with a player on the other side like him.”
KUDOS FOR MAGLOIRE
Jamaal Magloire does a lot of the dirty work that goes unrecognized. Setting screens, battling big bodies down low, basically playing physical basketball that makes an opponent think twice about venturing into the paint.
But every once in a while, like a couple of series Sunday and certainly in the post-game, the Big Cat gets a little attention. Late in the second quarter he was part of a big block on Andrew Bynum under his own basket and then got the left-handed layup at the other. He followed that up with another basket before the run ended with a questionable foul called on the big man.
After the game both coaches spoke to his impact on the game.
“Jamaal set the tone and Aaron (Gray) finished it up,” Casey said. “But Jamaal in that second quarter really, really set the tone for us being physical, setting solid screens, boxing out, hitting people legally and did a good job of mixing it up.”
Andrea Bargnani is working his butt off. Unfortunately for those hoping to see him back on a court soon, it’s all happening in a pool right now. Coach Casey was over to check out Bargnani’s pool workouts that are being supervised by Alex McKechnie, the Raptors director of sports science. Casey told the media he has started calling Bargnani ‘Flipper’ since taking in the pool workout. Casey gives Bargnani full credit for working his butt off, but cautions there is not going to be any timetable put on his return. In fact anything before the all-star game has pretty much been ruled out already.
DeROZAN SWITCHES IT UP
DeMar DeRozan called an audible Sunday.
Normally a scorer, DeRozan wasn’t really “feelin’ it” with his shooting early on so he became a distributor.
Conveniently Jose Calderon, who normally fills that role, turned shooter and the mix almost got the Raptors a win in a game they had trailed by as many as 18 points.
“Just a feel for the game,” DeRozan said of the switch. “A couple of shots I wasn’t feeling good so I just tried to get my teammates involved. I tried to push the ball because I know they’ll always collapse on me and then I tried to kick it out and look for the shooters.”
Calderon, with a career-high 30 points, and Linas Kleiza, with 15, were the main beneficiaries.
DeRozan wound up with a career-high seven assists in the game.
While he didn’t get much of a chance to show it off Sunday, DeRozan’s progress with his shooting has been noticed by at least one prominent Laker.
“I think the world of him as a player,” Kobe Bryant said of DeRozan. “I’ve seen his game grow tremendously from last year to this one in terms of adding a pull-up jumper to his game. He has a post game as well, but he wasn’t able to show it tonight because we have significantly bigger guards but he can post, he can handle, developed the mid-range jump shot, can obviously finish at the rim so I’m liking what he’s doing.”
In this case the Butler didn’t do it, but the man calling the shots had no regrets sending him out there.
Even having been on the bench the whole game, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey felt extremely confident sending Rasual Butler out to inbound the ball, a play that backfired when the Raptors pleas for a timeout went unheeded by officials resulting in a turnover.
“He’s our best inbounds passer,” Casey said. “What teams normally do is put their longest guy on the passer and that’s why we put Rasual out there. He’s our best inbound passer, our best lob passer, he sees the situations and he’s a veteran player.”
Butler admitted to being shocked by the five-second call that went against his team.
“I felt like I called the timeout in due time,” he said. “My coach and my teammates trust me in those situations. We practise it all of the time. I am very poised in those situations and I thought I called it in good enough time.”