Saturday, March 31, 2007

WTF Moment 3/31: Raptors vs. Wizards

I have to start out by saying that I'm not usually a fan of the NBA. In fact, for the most part, I abhor it. I often never even turn a game on. But I felt compelled to comment on a mind-boggling video highlight I saw on SportsCenter last night recapping the Raptors-Wizards game.

Imagine you're a Wizards player. There are three seconds left on the clock. You have the ball in your hands, and your team is up, 109-106. What do you do?

You would probably just dribble around the top of the key or pass the ball out to the wing to avoid the foul, right?

Not if you ask Michael Ruffin of the Wizards. He'd probably answer with something like, "Toss the ball up into the air with the strength of a second grader in celebration of a relatively meaningless win."

You probably don't want the ball in this guy's hands in the closing seconds, then, as the Wizards found out on Friday night. After the Wizards pulled ahead with a clutch three-pointer with 30 seconds left and seemingly iced the game with free-throws to keep the lead at three with only three seconds left, the Raptors tossed the ball the length of the court. Intercepted by Ruffin, game over, right?

Well, Ruffin obviously forgot to look at the clock, because as soon as he did his celebratory schoolgirl heave, Morris Peterson of the Raptors caught the ball and immediately heaved it from 30 feet out toward the basket with purpose. Somehow, the ball banks in, the Raptors celebrate, the crowd is in stunned silence, and the Wizards end up losing the game by five in OT.

One thing I wonder is why the hell you would toss the ball up like that at all. The Wizards already lead their division and are a mortal lock for the playoffs in the abysmal Eastern Conference. The Raptors are a surprise team this year, no doubt, owning a 39-32 record going into the game and leading their division as well. But heaving the ball up into the air like that should be reserved for locking up the eighth spot in the conference or winning the NBA Finals, not beating the Raptors in late March.

Not to mention the fact that Ruffin tossed the ball into the air with so much time to spare that the sportscasters for Comcast SportsNet could only wait in silence for the buzzer to sound. They literally had no words for Ruffin's actions. From three seconds remaining to the buzzer in regulation, all they could say was "aaaannnnnndddddd....." before the divine intervention.

And let's face it, it was one seriously lucky shot. There was no time for Peterson to set his feet, so he basically had to toss the ball up the moment he plucked it out of the air. After this, overtime just felt like a formality. There was no way the Wizards were going to come back from that.

This is one of those "this has got to be our year" moments. Like when the Marlins came back to win Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS over the Cubs or any number of moments for Boston after game 3 of the 2004 ALCS (Ortiz' 12th-inning homer, Ortiz' 14th-inning homer, A-Rod's blunder). I'm ready to put my money on the Raptors in seven for the Championship.

Oh wait, except this is the Eastern Conference, and it's going to be the Mavs, Suns or Spurs anyway.

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