The Toronto Raptors' Mr. Fourth Quarter was anything but.
Hedo Turkoglu, the Raptors' high-profile off-season free-agent signing was supposed to provide the Raptors attack a focal point in the stretch of close games.
Last night Turkoglu was the focal point of an attack that could do little right in the final moments as the Raptors fumbled to a 106-102 loss at the hands of the Washington Wizards in front of just 15,776 at the Air Canada Centre.
Trailing by five with 30 seconds to play, the Raptors came out of a timeout and gave the ball to the 6-foot-10 Turkish forward. He secured his mouthpiece in place, stood at the top of the key and drove left with an eye toward scoring or drawing the defence to him so he could make a pass.
Instead he pulled up and saw the ball slip from his fingers and straight up into the air where he could only flail for it.
It was that kind of night for Turkoglu. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but shot just three-of-11. The fourth quarter - where in part Turkoglu made a reputation that commanded a five-year, $53-million (U.S.) contract - was particularly bad as he missed six consecutive shots; committed two turnovers in the final five minutes while also missing a foul shot, a lay-up and a pair of defensive assignments that led directly to Wizards scores.
"They give me the ball when they needed it, and I lost the ball," Turkoglu said. "It just slipped out of my hands. I really don't have much to say about it … [But]I won't let it stick with me at all. It's just one game, we have like 60-something games left."
He has the support of his teammates even though what has been a slow start - his productivity is well off his recent averages in most categories - is veering into poor territory.
"He's going to have good and bad games," said Raptors point guard Jose Calderon, who along with Jarrett Jack was the team's best performer on the night. "I want him on my team instead of [his former club]Orlando for sure."
Turkoglu wasn't the only Raptor who struggled. Chris Bosh scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds but was 0-of-6 in the first quarter and 1-of-6 in the fourth. Andrea Bargnani scored 18 of his 20 points in the first three periods and nine of his 11 rebounds.
Not surprisingly the Raptors let the game slip away as their seven-point lead early in the period was frittered away as Wizards stalwarts Antawn Jamison (30 points) and Gilbert Arenas (22 points, 12 in the fourth) got rolling.
The Raptors took the lead by breaking out of a horrible shooting slump to drain four of five threes in the third period, this after suffering a 2-of-28 stretch over the previous six quarters.
A loss to another struggling opponent at home couldn't be worse timing for Toronto (7-12) as they play three games in four nights on the road and have now lost four in a row.
Time to panic? Raptors head coach Jay Triano says no: "All the games are important; [last night's]game is important. We lost but we're going to move on."
Toronto entered the game in 10th place but just a half game out of eighth and three games out of fifth in a conference where 10 of the 15 teams have losing records.
Triano's counterpart in Washington, Flip Saunders, is also taking the long view, even though a team that was a popular pick as a possible top-four seed in the East had to win last night to improve to 6-10.
"There's going to be no shape develop [in the playoff race]until about 50 games," Saunders said. "You've got a lot of people with new people coming in; you've got Toronto tying to integrate Turkoglu and their offensive and defensive systems. You can't get a snapshot of a team through 15 or 20 games; it's going to take 30 or 40 games to see what you have."
Still, on the verge of the quarter mark of the season what the Raptors have isn't very good, and their prize off-season acquisition hasn't been any better.
He did hit one shot in the fourth, a triple at the buzzer. He got a big cheer for that one as it pushed Toronto over 100 points and secured the home crowd free pizza.
It was about the only thing that went right.
NOTES Toronto was starting a stretch of four games in five nights last night and will play 10 games in the first 16 days of December. Toronto has two practice days - Dec. 12 and 14 - scheduled for first two weeks of the month. Raptors head coach Jay Triano said the lack of available practice time, because of Toronto's heavy road schedule, was making it difficult to implement some different defensive strategies - including some zone defence. … Chris Bosh leads the NBA in double-doubles with 15 prior to the game. … Andrea Bargnani is off to the best start of his career, having averaging 17.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for November. … Tomorrow night marks the 20th game of the season for Toronto; last season they were 8-12 at the same stage; two years ago they were 10-10. In 2006-07 they were 7-13 and rebounding to finish 47-35. … For the fourth time this season Toronto will be playing the second-night of a back-to-back on the road; it has lost all three times previously.
NEXT Wednesday in Atlanta against the Hawks, 7 p.m.
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