Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rok-A-Fella: Roko leads Raps to a gutsy win over Spurs

Look at it anyway you want, but that was one hell of a win by the Raptors. Let's face it, no one realistically expected the Raptors to beat the Spurs, and even more so, no one could've predicted Roko Ukic would be the clutch performer down the stretch to lead Toronto to that win. Especially without Bosh, Calderon, or Graham for that matter.

Even though we were up around 6-8 points most of the game, us Raptors faithful knew the lead would vanish in the fourth, but we couldn't even hold on that long - the Spurs came out halftime focused and disciplined and led in the third. And we started out the fourth quarter missing 8 of 10 shots. Yet somehow, we found a way to come back, and guys like Bargnani, Kapono, and Ukic stepped up big time. Bargnani may have shot 8 for 21 but when it mattered most he was huge, finishing with 23 points and 8 boards. You've got to love this guy's confidence, he started out in a slump but kept shooting and never hesitated. And he started out the game with a couple of strong drives in the post on Tim Duncan nonetheless. Kapono was given the green light to fire at will by Triano, and he did just that, scoring 21 points - a significant amount of them actually included him dribbling the ball and even driving.

Finally, of course the player of the game - Roko Ukic, scoring a career high 22 points. This kid has great potential. He's figured out his niche - driving the ball straight at his defender and dropping floaters or getting layups, something Calderon used to do last year. As frail as he looks, he's got good size at the pg spot (6'5") which gives him a good advantage and he's wiry with some long arms. His most impressive asset are easily his handles - they're just smooth, and look so natural - add that to his quickness, and you've got a potentially superb point guard in about 2 years. It's almost a good thing that he can't shoot well yet because that forces him to drive and we all know how much of a dire need that is on this ball club. That clutch 3-pointer he hit was just pure confidence, and must have the shocked the hell out of Spurs fans, and probably Raptors fans as well. But of course it was his next bucket that was the dagger. You'd think the ball would be passed around to Bargnani, O'Neal, Parker, or Kapono, but instead Roko saw single coverage and had the balls to do it himself; dude just TOOK it to Parker. He almost travelled too, spinning and almost losing his footing but was able to put up the shot and it rolled in. That drive reminded me of a lot of the one he did on Jameer Nelson against the Magic which was also the game-clinching play.

I wasn't even going to bother watching this game, but I did because I love Manu Ginobili, appreciate Tim Duncan to the max and admire Gregg Popovich. Ginobili is just a joy to watch - he looks awkward on his drives but just slithers through the lanes with great precision and has surprising athleticism. He dropped a season high 32, 15 of them in the fourth quarter.

Jermaine O'Neal deserves a shout out for his defense on Duncan; he didn't shut him down by any means (Duncan had 20 and 10), but he made it difficult and that's all you can ask. I thought Paul Jones had a good point on the post-game show on the FAN 590 : he said J.O., having been an all-star plenty of times and some juice to his name from previous years, got the leeway to play Duncan tighter than most other players would've gotten to (without getting called for fouls). Yes, he still finished with 5 fouls, but he would've probably been out much earlier in the game if he was just any other player.

  • You've got to love Popovich's honesty and point-blank answers. When asked if his team wasn't ready or maybe looked past this game, he said "no, we were ready, we busted our ass out there, the Raptors just played better and earned that win" (I'm paraphrasing)
  • That last play was definitely not what the Spurs wanted - a Tony Parker fadeaway with J.O. contesting, so we should actually credit the Raps for once on a clutch defensive play - hey, Pop even said so.
  • Speaking of the last play, how many of you thought Roger Mason was gonna burn us with a 3?
  • Parker almost blew it with that turnover, but did that 3 right before.
  • I was scared as hell when JO was taking those free throws, not because I thought he was going to miss, but because I had no idea how he is with clutch free throws.
  • Thank God Triano didn't pick Solomon to play the pg slot tonight.
  • I was watching some of this game from a stream, and the live chat that goes on with it are filled with hilarious comments from users. Such as: "Chris Bosh looks like a malnourished alien."


  1. "Hey Pop even said so" Should be Malin's life creed.
    Classic was when while sitting with Aldrin and a buddy having pizzas at my place, he said: "Pop is so great!...(pause)...We're not even worthy of even mentioning his name at this table".

  2. haha yea, I still stand by that. He is the greatest all around coach in the NBA, dealing with personalities, development, offense, defense, in game, adjustments, anything and everything. Even though we scraped this one out we had to have two amazing plays by a rookie who doesn't shoot well to do it but generally, I still think there's no better team in the last few minutes. Kudos to that last minute defense by parker and yes, moon, great switch and recovery by kapono to stay with the shooters. I did not want to see mason have the ball.

  3. Agree completely. Popovich is coaching king.