New Orleans Hornets 118, Toronto Raptors 111

I never quite figured out how the Raptors had won their earlier meeting with the Hornets so going into this one there was some optimism that we might be able to get a win against the West-leading Hornets who by all accounts are a vastly superior team. And that superiority showed throughout the game as New Orleans was rarely threatened and remained in complete control with the exception of some inspired play by the Raptors bench late in the fourth.

David West took it upon himself to establish New Orleans early by taking it straight at Rasho Nesterovic and Chris Bosh getting results in both matchups. The Raptors started Nesterovic on him but it quickly became evident that barring intervention, West might just eat Rasho for dinner. Midway through the first quarter Bosh was given the task of handling West but it hardly mattered, West ended up going 8-11 in the first quarter helping the Hornets to a 37-28 lead. The other player who we didn’t have an answer for in the first quarter was Bonzi Wells who was using his strength to easily back up the frail frame of Jamario Moon for easy hoops around the rim, leaving the eager shot-blocker’s swat-attempts flailing. It wasn’t until Linton Johnson was introduced in the fourth quarter did Bonzi finally get a matchup that he couldn’t exploit with ease. More on that later.

Looking at the stats, everything’s fairly even across the boards: rebounding, assists, turnovers, blocks, steals, second chance points etc. But the one thing that sticks out like a virgin in a whorehouse is the obscene 60% that the Hornets shot. I was at the game courtesy of Alt Raps and here’s how I saw it: the Hornets got the matchups they wanted very easily. TJ Ford’s guarding Chris Paul and the next thing you know Peja Stojakovic is posting him up, Jason Kapono’s trying to check Mo Pete and you turn around to see Tyson Chandler scoring over him etc. etc. Ford was by far the most exploited matchup and the Raptor failed to hide him properly. The Raptors were unable to fight through on simple screens and allowed New Orleans that half step going to the rim. Once Chris Paul had any daylight, waiting was Chandler in the paint and Stojakovic on the perimeter to make the Raptors pay for their negligence in deciding when to switch and when to stay. Mitchell did his usual “throw your hands in the air” like there was nothing we could do:

“You try trapping him but he backs out of it and splits it. He made some passes tonight and I don’t even see how he found the guy and he didn’t miss any shots. They’ve got great shooters and some nights you have to hope the guys don’t shoot the ball as well. He just makes the right plays. I can’t tell you one time tonight that he didn’t make the right play.”

Chris Paul’s 16 assists weren’t off the spectacular kind, the decisions he had to make were easy because the Raptors defense was so out of sync and and so prone to allowing penetration that the hardest pass he made all night was an alley-oop to Chandler for a dunk. In short, we didn’t make life uncomfortable for them with Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Chris Bosh and Forderon all failing their respective defensive assignments. Anthony Parker was a complete non-factor going 2-2 and played some shoddy defense on Stojakovic – somewhat to be expected given Peja’s craftiness.

On a night when Chris Bosh had 21/7, we needed him to have a much bigger game, if not on offense by getting Chandler/West out of the game, then by establishing himself as a defensive presence against the agile and impressive David West. Bosh came up short but at least he tried, the same couldn’t be said for Jason Kapono or Andrea Bargnani. Kapono was inserted into the starting lineup to matchup with Morris Peterson (nice welcome by the crowd) but went a quiet 0-3 and was a non-factor. Note to Sam: Stop relying on Jason Kapono to create his own shot. That’s not his game, that’s not what he was hired to do, that’s something he’ll never do. He’s a shooter, a pure shooter who needs an offense around him to get him shots. Start drawing some plays for him because if you want him to be more than a 5th wheel on offense come playoff time, he’ll need your help.

Pre-game Andrea Bargnani was practicing shots from behind the backboard which I thought weird for a 7-footer center. As I pointed this out to Alt Raps, he correctly quipped, “That’s probably because that’s where he ends up when he tries to drive”. Hahaha. Seriously though, WTF? He may as well have been shooting from there in the game because his inconsequential 0-3, 3 rebounds and uninspired defense on Chandler was stuff made to forget. He’s like a ghost on the floor, he doesn’t have a clue of what to do and he just drifts around waiting for something to happen that’ll get him involved in the game. And that something hasn’t been happening of late because he’s being far too passive in his approach to the game. Sure, Sam is to blame for not having a legit play for him but he doesn’t have a play for Moon either and he doesn’t have any problem jacking up shots, grabbing a rebound or two and getting involved in the game. Maybe Bargnani should talk to JM on tips on how to have the announcer call your name out more often other than to specify a foul. Before you call me a hater, let me just say he did have one good play: a drive and a lay-off to Bosh for a dunk. Not exactly #1 pick stuff but hey, it’s early, we got to give him at least another 3 years ;)

Let’s talk about the heart-warming comeback featuring our very own Linton Johnson. Johnson, Humphries, Calderon, Delfino and Moon cut a 20+ Raptor lead down to six with 90 seconds left before West and Chandler answered with layups to ice the game. Johnson was able to stop Bonzi Wells, Humphries hit the offensive glass against Chandler, Delfino and Moon dropped a few bombs and suddenly this was a game. Now with the score that tight you might wonder why Sam didn’t bring back Bosh into the game and have a go at things. I say he made the right decision, Bosh/Kapono/Rasho were getting banged around too easily by the Hornet big guys and didn’t deserve the chance at a win. The bench deserved to be in there down the stretch and its just unfortunate we couldn’t get a couple more stops.

The fans started booing in the third quarter when the Raptors were in a funk and down by 17 or so. Pathetic, why do these shits even bother coming to the game if they don’t even understand that we’re playing the best team in the West. Then they figure to cheer really loud on a meaningless three at the fourth quarter buzzer? Wankers.

Charlotte tomorrow, I imagine the Raps will be looking for revenge after that 32-0 second chance point drubbing. At least that’s what I hope. Anybody else glad TSN might die?

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