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Toronto Raptors Hit by Vinsanity
The return of former favorite Vince Carter to the Air Canada Centre not a happy homecoming for Toronto fans.
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Former Toronto Raptor Vince Carter and his new team, the New Jersey Nets, drew a sell-out crowd to the Air Canada Centre on Friday, April 15th. This was the first contest in Toronto between the two teams since the notorious November trade that sent a disgruntled Carter to the Jersey swamp. Without question, this was the one game Toronto basketball fans and media had been anxiously awaiting. The stage was set, the crowd was charged, and all that remained to be seen was the performance of the cast – and what a performance it was!
Despite the fact that the Raptors have failed to make the play-offs for a third consecutive season, on this night their fans put out nothing but love for their “New Era” NBA basketball team. One might argue that this type of reception should only be reserved for a more consistent, winning team. Still, the crowd was excited and ready. But ready for what? Or perhaps the better question, ready for whom?
Well, it happened to Damon Stoudamire, and it happened to Tracy McGrady, but not even the harshest of critics would have ever predicted the intensity of the verbal assault that was laid on Vince Carter upon his return to Toronto as an opponent. As soon as the Nets hit the floor, they were abruptly confronted with what seemed to be a never-ending chorus of boos. Shouts of “VC sucks” and “Carter sucks” sounded throughout the arena. In fact, every time Vince even touched the ball the response was the same, and didn’t let up even once for the entire night.
The electrified atmosphere fueled the Raptors throughout the first half. They were clearly the better team, moving the ball well, finding the open man and executing exceptionally well on the perimeter and in the paint. This resulted in a 62.9% shooting percentage for the home team, versus 41.5% for their opponents. And at the end of the second frame, the Dino’s had a 14-point advantage over a struggling New Jersey team, taking a 55-41 lead into the halftime break.
However, the all too familiar second-half breakdown once again plagued the Raptors. The Toronto squad quickly found themselves in a deficit early in the third, due largely to the stellar performance of Mr. Vinsanity himself, along with veteran all-star guard Jason Kidd and strong front-court presence from Brian Scalabrine and Jason Collins. The Nets went on to defeat the Raptors by a score of 101 – 90. Carter finished the night with a strong 39 points, leading his teammates to a much-needed victory in their campaign to overtake the faltering Cleveland Cavaliers for the eighth play-off spot in the East.
This was hardly the outcome that Toronto fans and the Raptors would have liked, particularly under the circumstances. Still, the reality of the situation is that the Raptors found themselves coming up short in a game that was very winnable, in spite of what New Jersey’s newly-acquired #15 was able to do.
“When we pass the ball we win, when we don’t pass the ball we loose,” remarked a clearly frustrated Raptor head coach Sam Mitchell. And although Mitchell’s comments were quite brief, it was evident that he believes the current roster of players is not at all equipped to finish games strongly. Essentially, he conceded that the Raptors are in need of some new blood if they intend to be play-off contenders in the future.
Rising Raptor star Chris Bosh talked about letting the game get away in the second half. “We didn’t do what we did in the first half, moving the ball well, playing D, we just didn’t play good ball”. When asked how important this game was, Bosh remarked, “Everybody was kind of taking this as a big game, but for me, I don’t get up for some games and then take other games off, I prepare myself the same for every game. But if you look in the crowd, I don’t think they took this as another game.”
In an earlier interview, Jalen Rose gave his insights on the controversial comments made by Vince Carter that sparked the outrage displayed by Toronto fans in the first place (Carter had implied in an ESPN interview that he had not always played hard while he was a Raptor). Rose said that Carter did not let his teammates down because he didn’t give his all while in Toronto, but rather summed it up by defining Carter’s behavior as a “personal decision, a decision he would have to take responsibility for”. Rose did admit that Carter may have let down his fans, but refused to address what many believe was a lack of professionalism and lack of integrity demonstrated by the former Raptor star, particularly in his last two seasons in Toronto. And for his disingenuous defense of Carter, Rose also was also challenged by an ornery crowd who chanted “LIAR, LIAR!!” while Rose shot free-throws in the second quarter.
It goes without saying that there were a lot of emotions expressed before, during and after the game. Still, the end result is that Carter is gone from the Raptors, he’s now playing well for his new team, and the place he once called home is without a remedy for their lack of performance…so yes, the soap opera continues.
That’s all boys and girls….I’m out
Edited / Karl James Kabasele