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News » Roar of Thunder will soon be heard

Roar of Thunder will soon be heard

Roar of Thunder will soon be heard
There are those who believe the Toronto Raptors' once-promising season blew up after Vince Carter lit the fuse.

Remember that game in November? Toronto was 6-5, Sam Mitchell patrolled the sidelines and the Raptors were seconds from knocking off the hated Carter, et al.

But they couldn't inbound the ball, Carter hit a couple of ridiculous shots, in regulation and to end overtime, and the Raptors' lack of heart at crunch time was apparent.

However much that one might have begun the destruction, the real explosion came Dec.19, when the Raptors began a six-game trip around the Western Conference in Oklahoma City. At that point, the Thunder was a gruesome 2-24, with 11 consecutive home losses.

The game should have been a piece of pastry for the 10-15 Raptors, who still had an opportunity to rescue the season by joining the bottom of the playoff dance. Instead, the Thunder earned its first win at home in 47 days, 91-83, and it was no longer possible to believe in the Raptors at all.

Compounding the problems to come, that also was the game Jermaine O'Neal pulled the chute on the team, sitting out after halftime with a sore shoulder, although he played the next night in a loss at San Antonio.

"I remember being particularly upset after that game, especially with the intensity level they had and we didn't," Raptors coach Jay Triano remembered. "I hope we can remember that for tonight and take the intensity to them."

That was the plan for last night's rematch, ultimately won easily by the Raptors, 112-96. As for bringing the energy, the Raps started by missing their first four shots, wrapped around two turnovers. But the Thunder, with speed, youth and raw talent, plays the kind of defence you could expect from a team that might have hit its rookie wall by now; the Raps made their next seven shots, wandered out to a big lead and were never strenuously threatened. Chris Bosh, apparently unhindered by his legal laundry being hung out in public lately, paved proceedings statistically, but it was one of those games everybody ended with some stats.

"They only had the two wins at the time, but you knew they were going to have a lot more than that when it was over," Triano mentioned of the December disaster and look at the record since: the Thunder is 17-28 and the Raps are 17-29. Not much of a difference.

Further to that, there probably isn't a fan in Oklahoma who would trade lineups, top to bottom, last night's result notwithstanding.

In Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, there's a potentially terrific trio of youngsters. For some reason, the Thunder threw back Tyson Chandler as medically unsound when New Orleans was giving him away a few weeks ago. Right move or wrong - and it looks wrong these days - at some point they'll need to find a workable big man to put with that trio.

But they have some salary-cap space for this off-season and four No.1 draft choices on the books for the next two seasons. They have plenty of options, then, and there is a good chance that it won't be a long road to respectability for the Thunder, at least from here. For certain, they should get good before the Raptors do.

No one can know which way the Raps will go now. They've become a file folder full of questions, moving forward. It wasn't supposed to be this way, of course, but it is. And we know when the real blow-up occurred.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 28, 2009


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