With their resounding 107-90 win over the Hornets last night, the Raptors showed that they are now staring to gel as a team and are developing the kind of chemistry to begin achieving their expectations this season. With all of the veteran players seemingly in the prime of their careers, they came together as a team tonight in the first game of their first road trip of the season. The timing of this win was ideal.
Overall, the Raptors played what could be considered a perfect 48 minute game – a rare feat for this franchise, but not particularly this team – that had everything to do with great coaching and great shooting. There was a definite game plan in terms of neutralizing Chris Paul in making him a non-factor, which was most evident during an 8:30 minute stretch in the 3rd quarter when the Raptors went on a spectacular 27-4 run that broke what was a very close back-and-forth game completely wide open.
The strategy of the coaching staff to frequently send a second defender on Paul as soon as he would get the ball at the three-point line took away his ability to beat his primary guard off the dribble to get into paint and pick apart our help defense, or to even take a shot. This forced Paul to pass the ball early in the shot clock. But because no other Hornets player is able to effectively create their own shot, it made the job of our help defense less difficult and made our defensive rotations look good. After forcing Paul to pass the ball, what resulted was another Hornets player trying to get the ball to West or Okafor in the post. But when that wasn’t made easy with our bigs fronting their bigs, it usually led to either some posturing dribbling and a low-percentage shot, or an eventual pass-back to Paul. But even when Paul did get into the paint forcing the Raptors interior help defence to collapse on him to take away the lay-up option leaving Paul with having to kick-it back to his open teammates on the perimeter, the glaring problem with this Hornets team is the fact that they don’t have any really good shooters surrounding Paul. Adding to the Hornets flawed roster is that they aren’t all that athletic and aren’t a great rebounding team. Altogether, Jay Triano and the assistant coaches demonstrated that the Hornets aren’t as good as they once were, while the players executed to perfections a game plan that had opposing team scouts eager to communicate it back to their bosses.
As for the players, the highest of praise has to be bestowed on Chris Bosh. Scoring 27 points in 30 minutes on a measly 9 shots, and making every one of them including a 3-pointer, is downright incredible. He got to the line 11 times by being ultra-aggressive in going and getting to the rim. Plus, he also got some close fouls called his way – Dick Bevetta has been a ref in the league for nearly a century because he’s as old (and smart) as David Stern and because he knows how to treat “superstar” players. What I’m seeing from Bosh so far this season is a max-money player.
Quick Game Notes:
* I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the consecutive bricks Calderon threw up before he took a seat and called it a night. But his on-ball defence against Paul was pretty good and the charge he created and took by stepping into Paul’s way when Paul had his back turned to receive an in-bounds pass was great!
* Chris Paul had 17 points and 10 assists at halftime, but only 4 points and 8 assists in the 2nd half.
* Did anyone else notice the message Byron Scott sent by keeping Paul, West, Okafur and Wright on the court for 5 last minutes of garbage time?
* Bosh’s two-handed, turn-around, monster dunk in the 2nd quarter was an awesome display of his power, and his over the head, backwards tip-in on a missed Jack shot was an unbelievable display of his soft hands and athletic coordination.
* Morris Peterson is done as an NBA player. He’s had a nice career, but he’s no longer effective.
* Peja Stojakovic is done too.
* How many alley-oops is Paul thowing Okafur? Do you think the Hornets fans are going to start regretting that trade pretty soon?
* The fact DeRozan is starting as a rookie and isn’t forcing anything on offense and is holding his own against non-all-star SG is so enjoyable to witness.
* It’s always great to see a Raptors box score when Bargnani has more rebounds than 3PA.
* It looked like we stole and implemented entire the Orlando Magic playbook taking 29 three’s.
* The Raptors shot 50% from the field and 48% from beyond the arch.
* Since they happen to be playing again tonight against a talented Dallas team, it’ll be tough for them to pull out another victory, but it may not be as surprising as it may seem if they do.