Chris Bosh was standing in front of his locker in the Toronto Raptors' dressing room, looking at the statistical story of yesterday afternoon's game against the Orlando Magic, trying to make sense of it.
While the sheet was full of numbers, including a final score that read 104-96 Orlando, Bosh was drawing a blank.
"Every time we play a game, I like to see where we won or where we lost," he said. "But it's [confusing] … Just looking at the score sheet, I really don't know what to say."
That's because it's not politic for Bosh to state the obvious: The Magic [11-3]are better than the Raptors and can win NBA games all manner of ways.
The Raptors [6-8]can take solace in any number of statistical truths:
They held the Magic - fortified with the recent return of the Air Canada Centre's first son, Vince Carter, from injury and Rashard Lewis from suspension - to just 41-per-cent shooting from the field, a tremendous achievement.
They held Carter - still booed every time he touches the ball five years and two teams after leaving Toronto - to just 9-of-24 shooting and they led the Magic in bench scoring 34-31.
They also held the Magic - one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the NBA in recent years - to just 9-of-32 from deep, a miserly 28.1 per cent and a significant improvement over the last time the teams met when Orlando ripped the Raptors for 17 triples on 32 tries in the third game of the season.
All good things.
And the Raptors can take comfort in the knowledge they have a chance to be a decent team, with considerable offensive punch and just enough defence to not let their scoring go to waste.
But it's clear that the Magic's trip to the NBA final last season was no fluke.
"Are they the best team in the league? They're playing good," said Raptors point guard Jose Calderon, who had 16 points and four assists. "They have a lot of good players, a deep bench. Maybe right now they are the best for sure. They're deep. They have a lot of guys who can really play."
The Raptors tried to focus on neutralizing the Magic's multiple three-point threats. Toronto chose to do that by having Bosh single cover Magic centre Dwight Howard for most of the game so the Raptors could stay at home on the perimeter and contest those three-point shots. Bosh was game, wrestling and banging with the Magic's muscle man - "hands down the strongest guy in the league," Bosh said - largely to a draw.
Howard had 17 points and 12 rebounds, but he shot just 4-of-13 and had just one dunk. Not bad considering he led the NBA in dunks last season with 202.
But Howard was a respectable 9-of-14 from the free throw line and Bosh said all that wrestling might have affected the rest of his game. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds, well off his season averages of 27 points and 12.2 rebounds.
"You have to exert a lot of energy," Bosh said. "I had a few open jump shots and I missed a couple and I was off-balance taking it to the basket a couple of times. It's going to happen sometimes."
Even as the Raptors executed their game plan, the Magic did them one better, tightening their defensive noose in the fourth quarter as they held Toronto to 6-of-16 shooting down the stretch and broke open a 76-76 tie with a 19-6 run to start the fourth quarter, spearheaded by J.J. Redick and Jason Williams with the Magic starters on the bench.
"I think our bench is deep," said Redick, who followed up the career-high 27 points he had last month against Toronto with 19 off the bench yesterday, second only to Carter's 24 on the Magic. "I don't think there was a drop off, it wasn't like we looked around and said, 'Holy crap, we don't have an all-star on the floor."Report Typo/Error