Everyone goes home happy – well, maybe not Goran – from a normal night at the arena

That felt more normal, didn’t it?

There was a buzz in the arena, I’d bet it translated to the viewers watching or listening at home and while I still wish vaccines were mandatory and there seemed a bit of mask slippage, it really was fun to be back in a big crowd watching a good game.

That the Raptors won was fitting, send the audience off into the good night with a good feeling and I couldn’t get this Gary Trent Jr. quote in on time but it pretty much sums up the prevalent opinion of the night. Except, of course, Goran Dragic but the less said about that, the better.

“It was amazing,” Trent said. “We missed their energy all year, for the time they had to be out of the building. But they’re all back now, so hopefully we can get things rolling, crowd get behind us, the city get back behind us and a great thing going.”

So now, before you start filling in the very empty mailbag by sending a note to askdoug@thestar.ca today, here’s a final look back.

I’ve got a Malachi Flynn piece to write and then a day of loafing, I hope.


Never before seen

I always tell people that at every basketball game you ever go to, you’re going to have a “holy crap!” moment and it’s what makes the sport so great.

Not often, though, that the “holy crap!” moment is two defensive three second calls in the final three minutes of a close game.

But there we were, stunned into almost silence when Tony Brothers and his crew hit LaMarcus Aldridge twice – TWO TIMES! – with the rare call.

Never seen anything like. Nor had Nick, who said:

“You guys have probably heard Jeff Van Gundy talk about some of the stats – there hasn’t been one called in the fourth quarter in … (‘forever,’ I interjected) late, so … those were pretty good ones.

“They did sit in zone for like 40 minutes tonight so I imagine they were probably in there 10 or 12, 15 times and they get called for a couple of them.”

Craziness and the 19,000 or so fans can tell their grandkids about the night they saw it happen. It may never happen again.

Some things don’t work

It was always going to be a bit of gamble for Nick Nurse when he tried to mix and match lineups with OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet unavailable and Pascal Siakam saddled with foul trouble for most of the second half.

Found one that didn’t work.

Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn, Chris Boucher, Thad Young and Precious Achiuwa gave up a 14-4 run in the final three minutes to turn a two-point lead into an eight-point deficit heading into the fourth.

It was kind of gruesome and offensively challenged and even though they overcame it with a solid finish to the game, I don’t think it’s something we’re going to see again for a long time.

A festival of misses.

It was very nice that fans were back and it was nice they got to stay to the end to see a close finish but …

How thousands didn’t walk out at the start of the fourth quarter is beyond me. (Not really, but you get my drift, right?)

The teams went 13 straight possessions without a single basket being scored, one of the most equally brutal runs of the season.

It was 89-81 Nets when the quarter started and it was 89-81 Nets for 3:23 until Gary Trent Jr. hit a little floater in the lane.

I know it’s a game of runs, but not that way.

A personal note, if you don’t mind.

Got word last night that one of greatest characters I’ve ever met has passed away.

I can’t imagine many of you knew or heard of Sam Lamb but, man, let me assure you he was a legend in the Tillsonburg area and if you were around amateur baseball to any degree from the 80s until not too long ago, you had to have run into him.

The Tillsonburg Red Sox, the Tillsonburg Jr. Red Sox, the Tillsonburg Old Sox. The guy was everything.

He was a town councillor, he’s in the National Old Timers Baseball of Fame. Just a great, great guy.

My connection is this: I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid when I landed in Tillsonburg in the late 1970s ad Sam and his family – and it was a great, great family – welcomed me to the baseball world, the social world, the town world and I don’t know that I ever thanked them enough.

Sam’s passing hurts and I know it hurts his family but his was a great, full life lived.

RIP, my friend.

And hello to all the old Red Sox; those were some memorable times. Some of the most fun times I’ve ever had.


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