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The story of the game last night has to be the stellar play of Jeff Foster in the first half and his disappearance in the second half. Foster had 12 points and 10 boards in the first 15 minutes of the game and finished the first half with 12 boards and had a season high 19 points while shooting 8-8 from the field. Toronto headed into the half down by seven and the game looked like it was over because the Raptors were getting worked over like a cheap mule. Indy was able to stretch their lead to 10 points at the midway mark of the third quarter and it looked like yet another loss for Toronto.
I can’t put my finger on one specific thing that happened to spark our second half rally, rather it was a culmination of big plays by the entire team. From making the extra pass, diving for loose balls to locking down Foster (he was held scoreless in the second half) the team was able to steal a home win Sunday evening. The change on the defensive end in the second half was huge as Toronto allowed Indy to score 51 points in the first half but limited them to 38 points in the second half (and just 14 in t he fourth quarter).
“The mistakes in the first half is we weren’t talking,” Sam Mitchell told the media scrum following the game. “We were supposed to be switching and guys weren’t communicating. Once we cleaned that up at halftime we took away all of those easy baskets that they got and we forced them to take jump shots and we know (Peja) Stojakovic and (Stephen) Jackson would take the majority of the shots.”
Following the game Morris Peterson told the media that, “all year we have been have close games and we haven’t been able to pull them out. Tonight we showed the extra effort, we did the little things like diving for loose balls and that was the game. I gotta take my hat off to Chris Bosh because he did a lot of growing up tonight.”
Chris Bosh had yet another monster game as he was able to take charge of the game tonight on both ends of the floor. He made a big steal with less than a minute to go in the game, he threw down a thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter. Bosh finished the game with 24 points, 8 boards and 2 steals.
Peterson was continued to sing the praises of Bosh and told Norma Wick that, “I call Chris the ‘Man Child’ because he can do so many great things. The first half he wasn’t as aggressive but in the second half he showed why he is an All-Star. If you look at the defensive stops he made, key blocks and big shots he made down the stretch. Like I said, he played like an All-Star and one of the leaders of our team.”
Welcome back Joey Graham! The rookie has looked lost on the court lately but tonight Graham responded by going 4-8 from the field while chipping in 8 points and 6 boards in limited minutes off the bench. Graham made some great moves in the paint and seemed to be able to score at will during one strech in the fourth quarter. It was great to see Graham smiling and joking with members of the media in the locker room following the game- it looks like the stress from his current slump has lifted.
“I thought Joey played well on both ends tonight,” Mitchell gushed following the game. “He was on the floor for loose balls. Joey game up with some big rebounds and he boxed guys off the glass. It was good to see him have a good game.”
Another rookie that is starting to step things up is Charlie Villanueva. He’s struggled with his shot over the past week but tonight he stepped up his game on the defensive end and had a big block to seal the victory.
“When Mike (James) hit that big shot the guys on the bench knew that we’ve been there before against teams like Cleveland and we needed one more stop,” Villanueva told reporters following the game. “I was just so determined to get that last stop whether it be a rebound or block shot. The block was there and I just made a big play.”
When a reporter asked if it’s better to hit a big shot or make a defensive stop, a stunned VIllanueva told a reporter between chuckles that, “that was the turnaround in the game! That was the play that won the game and it was definitely huge. I was struggling on the offensive end and that big defensive play made up for the offense. This League is about defense and that was a big play. Six second left, block shot and we won the game because of that.”
James was ice cold from the field in the first half but sealed the win with a clutch three point 8.5 second left in the game. Following the game James told the reporters surrounding his locker, “when I saw the clock running down I saw Chris Bosh had Anthony Johnson on him and I had Jeff Foster on me and I was basically like take my pick. I would have went either way but when I looked at the shot clock there was maybe six second on the clock so I said I gotta step up and take this shot. I just hoped this was the shot that I take and make everyday in practice. I am just thankful that the shot went down.”
There’s a lot of Raptors fans that feel we shouldn’t re-sign James because of his age and shoot first tendency but this Raptors fans feels he’s the teams second best player and is an asset that we can’t afford to lose.
Mon 03/13/06, 5:02 pm EST