By Andy Charles
There were plenty of times during the Raptors 108-99 defeat of the hopeless New Jersey Nets on Wednesday when it looked like 4-43 for the visitors from the south would become 5-43.
But thankfully for the Toronto faithful it was a couple of unheralded players who came to the rescue as the Raptors made it 15 straight games where they had topped the 100 points – a 10-5 record in that spell helped them move 4.5 games ahead of the ninth-ranked team in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
That the Raptors are only 5.5 games out of Boston now at the top of the Atlantic Division is all the more unbelievable given the fact that they were trailing one of the worst teams in NBA history by 12 points during the second quarter.
But at that point it was second-season pro Sonny Weems who stepped up with eight of his 14 points on the night to lead Toronto back from 42-30 down to take a one-point lead by half-time.
Along with Weems, Antoine Wright came into the starting five to score a season-high 18 points as the Raptors overcame the absence of Hedo Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon to secure victory.
Although the Nets are no team to be worrying about at most times, they have recently shown the odd flash of inspiration and they certainly showed that in the first 18 minutes on Wednesday – whether they get the five wins they need to avoid the ‘worst in history’ tag is another matter.
But if the game did one thing, it proved that the Raptors have more than their usual starting five, plus Jarret Jack, to rely on, in particular Weems who had his first career double-double after pulling down 11 rebounds as well.
One of his plays, a quite ridiculous finish that was against all NBA Odds of an alley-oop during the second period run, even turned the odd cat-call from the crowd at the Air Canada center into a crescendo of cheers that seemed to lift the whole team.
“Sonny was energy and beyond tonight,” Raptors coach Jay Triano told AP after the game. “Open drives to the basket and he finished and made plays for other people too.”
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