Raptors need a lot of help

MIKE GANTER, TQMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

TORONTO - The change was startling.

On Sunday, having given the keys to the playoff vehicle to the Bulls with a loss, the Raptors locker room was deathly quiet.

Even the normally vocal Sonny Weems talked in hushed tones about the opportunity that got away.

None of the players could get out of there quick enough.

A night later in Detroit having won just the 15th road game of the season against 26 losses, it was like the night before never happened.

Amir Johnson, who set a career high with 26 points was happily taking a beating from his teammates who chose to harp on his two rebounds for the night and ignore all those baskets. Jarrett Jack, in particular, was having fun with “Mr. Hollywood” as he referred to Johnson suggesting big time scorers don’t have to concern themselves with workmanlike stats such as rebounds.

Johnson probably had it right before the game when he suggested everyone had already forgotten the loss against the Chicago Bulls. There was really no alternative.

Even Weems, who after the game was wheeled out of the room in a wheelchair to have an X-ray taken on his injured right ankle, was back helping pile on Johnson about 20 minutes later. Weems also assured anyone who asked that he would be fine for Wednesday’s season finale against the New York Knicks.

But underneath it all was the thought of Tuesday night’s pivotal tilt, one the Raptors would have no say in, but were already making plans for.

Andrea Bargnani isn’t sure exactly how many NBA games he has watched this year but he readily admits it’s not a big number. And he vowed, as long as the game was being televised somewhere in Toronto, he would be watching.

“I watch film on our opponents and if I do watch a game it’s because I want to see what a guy like Tim Duncan is doing so I’m not really watching the game.”

Jack is the complete opposite.

He’s a confessed NBA junkie. If a game is on, he’s watching it so there was no surprise that he had already settled on his plans for Tuesday’s Bulls/Boston Celtics matchup.

He’ll be watching but probably alone because: “I do a lot of yelling at the TV when I watch.”

Johnson wasn’t taking any chances. He was planning on heading back to the Air Canada Centre and watch the game in the comforts of the team locker room.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, the result Tuesday night was not the one they were looking for.

The Bulls held off the Celtics101-93.

What it means for Toronto is clear. They must beat the Knicks and have the Bobcats defeat the Bulls.

Any other combination and the Raptors are out.

If there is an upside for the Raptors it comes in the form of Charlotte head coach Larry Brown who unlike his coaching brethren in Cleveland, will put his best players on the floor Wednesday night when the Bulls come to town.

Bobcats head coach Larry Brown had made it known that when the Bulls come calling on Wednesday he’ll have all hands available because he believes the Bobcats owe it to the “integrity of the league” to play their best if something is on the line.

And for that, Larry Brown has a new legion of fans in Toronto.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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