March 30, 2012
Bosh scores 30, Heat crush Raptors
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency
There’s no consolation in the bottom-line business of sports, no moral victories in a season where victories of any kind have been elusive.
But when the Heat comes to town and you’re not blown out in the face of so much talent, a sense of accomplishment is achieved, albeit in defeat.
Naturally, it doesn’t make the pain less bearable as the losses continue to pile up, but the Raptors would fight after beginning the night on such a frightful note before succumbing 113-101 to Miami.
Moments and backdrops such as Friday night have been scarce this season, one of the byproducts of a young team that’s not deep enough nor good enough to win on a consistent basis.
Whether it’s the Lakers and the presence of Kobe Bryant, New York and the phenomenon known as Linsanity, or the arrival of the Heat, when the marquee is dripping in star power the air inside the Air Canada Centre has a feel only a big-time event can produce.
In the Heat, the Raptors got their one and only chance to watch LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the one-time face of basketball in Toronto who was routinely booed from the moment he was introduced.
There would be no end-of-game kiss to the crowd that marked his first visit to Hogtown last season, replaced by an exchange of ridicule from the fans and revenge by Bosh in a sequence that saw Bosh miss a flush on an alley-oop pass and then make amends with a two-handed slam.
For Bosh, it was his fourth game versus his former team and his most impactful, at least offensively.
Bosh and Wade each scored 30 points, while James added 26 as Miami’s Big 3 combined for 86 points.
“I’m not here to be close,’’ Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said in the aftermath, providing yet another example of why Casey is the absolute best coach for Toronto. “I’m here to get us over the hump.
“This year has been a year of learning, but we’ve had too many learning experiences.”
And chances are more will await because the roster Casey has to work with is simply too thin and too flawed.
When Bosh caught the ball on the block or would make a move to the hole, the boos would follow as the sold-out house voiced its dislike for Bosh, whom many felt abandoned the club.
No matter who gets anointed as a franchise player and no matter who is calling the shots in management, fans in Toronto have yet to wrap their heads around the cruel business that is pro basketball.
All Bosh did was exercise his right to be a free agent.
The Raptors rolled the dice and came up snake eyes, losing a player who was miscast as a franchise player for essentially a trade exception.
Toronto could have, and in retrospect should have, traded Bosh the summer before he was eligible for free agency in 2010.
But that’s history, except fans won’t forget and Bosh certainly was reminded of his decision to bolt the Raptors on Friday night.
As good as Miami looked at times, the Heat has this nasty habit of playing down to an opponent.
Even though Miami played the night earlier at home in a rematch of last spring’s NBA final against Dallas and did not arrive in Toronto until 3:30 a.m., it was the Heat that would begin the night on a 10-0 run.
“They threw a haymaker at us,’’ said Casey. “They knocked us down, but I thought we bounced back.”
Toronto did, but ultimately its lack of depth and inability to play defence would do it in.
With Miami, it’s title or bust.
Having come within two wins of claiming last year’s championship, failure this year will most certainly result in major changes.
The stakes are that high and while some believe Bosh will be sacrificed, don’t ever discount the possibility of James being peddled.
In Toronto, virtually every player remains an option to be moved this off-season when the team’s cap-friendly position will be exhausted.
Against the Heat, Toronto’s starting frontline of Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza looked completely disjointed, slow and disinterested in getting back on defence.
Throw in some very sloppy turnovers and it wasn’t surprising to see the Raptors begin in retreat mode.
But the one endearing quality to this Casey coached team is the Raptors’ ability to play gritty basketball.
When the ball gets moved and shots are dropping, the Raptors have shown a tendency to hang around long enough to make games interesting.
Active on defence, not as vulnerable in the open floor when the ball wasn’t being turned over, the Raptors would summon a compete level that grew stronger as the evening unfolded.
After three quarters, the game was tied 83-83.
And three minutes into the final period, the game was knotted 89-89.
In the end, talent prevails and Miami is loaded with too much talent for most teams, let alone the Raptors, to handle.
Jose Calderon, who would record a game-high 16 assists, wore down, forced to play the entire second half when Ben Uzoh, signed to a 10-day contract, looked, not surprisingly, uncomfortable against Miami’s stifling defence during his six first-half minutes.