ross
Toronto Raptors 97, New Orleans Hornets 92

When I was shooting for a 3-4 road trip I did not expect the scalps to come in San Antonio or New Orleans. Like most I thought we’d pick up wins in Los Angeles, Seattle and maybe one of Portland or Houston, but these are the Raptors and they do shit the unexpected way. This win in New Orleans is an adequate remedy which might just have salvaged a roadtrip where our record dipped by only one game, something which was more than acceptable at the outset of the swing.

When your offense is this simple there shouldn’t be any surprises when we go through offensive droughts, the key is to have more spurts than droughts and hope the defense can come up with enough good possessions in the fourth to give you a chance to win the game. That’s what happened last night. That and some piss-poor clock management by the Hornets. Chris Paul choking on a shoe also helped. Our last meaningful possession where Bosh drove to the rim and threw up a wild shot should be considered a step forward, it doesn’t matter whether it went in or not, he did the right thing at the right time. Bosh’s drive was working all game long and there was no reason to do anything but that with the game on the line, the fact that he missed is something we can all live with.

The Hornets allowing us to dribble 19 seconds off the game clock with a 0.9 differential between shot and game made me double-check whether it wasn’t Lenny Wilkens that was coaching them. I had no idea Byron Scott had the basketball IQ of a door knob. Sorry Byron, I’m just trying to understand what the hell you were thinking. Byron Scott’s offense makes Sam Mitchell look like Jerry Sloan, in their time of need they can hardly come up with a decent play and if I’m Chris Paul this is the perfect place to showcase your skill, have a crazy contract year and bolt to a real team. Nobody on the Hornets will tell him that taking a shot which originates from his hip is a bad idea. Enough about the bad guys though.

I missed the San Antonio and Houston games (cruising in the Caribbean, it’s sweet and not even that expensive) but looking at the boxes it looks like Bargnani had a good game followed by a bad one which is great because he had a positive performance in there and that’s something to build upon. Add last night’s controlled performance where he did nothing to embarrass himself, showed an inclination to drive and didn’t do anything fundamentally wrong is sign that he might be coming out of the abyss he’s fallen into. Look at the box score closely, this is what the ideal Raptors one looks like, at least for the starters: good scoring from Bosh followed by Bargnani and the PG position, good defense and contribution by Moon and an efficient Anthony Parker. This is something that we were expecting at the beginning of the season and are only now seeing it, however sporadically. But let’s not celebrate too much, we won by only five and largely in part to some Hornet miscues. But hey, players like Peja Stojakovic and David West have always given us trouble and the latter’s monster game singlehandedly kept the Hornets close in this one – tip your cap to him but we could’ve played him a little tighter. Plus, the bench didn’t even show up tonight.

Down by 10 in the fourth quarter it looked like we had run out of gas but Calderon and Bosh rallied the team and the defense clamped down to frustrate the Hornets into turnovers which led to points in a decisive 17-5 run where we could do no wrong. Mo Pete’s three had set this up perfectly for a heartbreak but Chris Paul helped out and the Raptors came up with a win. A deserved one at that. It’s just a little disappointing to know that we could’ve so easily had two more on this swing.

We have two statement games coming up against Detroit and Cleveland. A win against Detroit on Friday at the ACC would send a nice message saying that we’re more than playoff breakfast and are better than what our record might indicate. The Bosh and Varejao matchup is something that I’ve been looking forward to since Sideshow Bob dunked on CB4 for the game-winner last year. I hope CB4 is as primed for revenge as I am. The month of January has 8 home and 5 away games and is the exact time where we made our run last year, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen now.

One-Liners:

* I like it when Calderon plays TJish.

* Mo Pete, I love you but I don’t miss you.

* At times the Hornets looked like they were chasing ghosts on defense.

* Jamario Moon with some high-flying dunks, I like to see more of that and less of the fake-drive followed by a jumper – that’s either a travel or a miss.

* Andrea Bargnani’s fake-the-drive-and-pull-up-for-a-20-footer actually went in today.

* There were more players than fans in the arena.

* Hopefully this is the only game of the year where Kapono goes shotless.

* If Maceo Baston missed the team bus, would anyone notice?

Yeah, I’m not going anywhere for New Year’s. Grab the feed.