"It was very important for us to get that first win because this trip is very difficult,'' Belinelli, who ended the evening by scoring a season-high 15 points, said.
Had the Raptors not won, it's possible the team could have gone winless during this four-game swing.
The team is now relaxed and brimming with confidence.
As long as they play with energy on defence, there are enough shooters to give any opponent problems.
As long as Chris Bosh maintains his high level of play, the Raptors will be competitive.
Hedo Turkoglu's ailing left hip was evident each time he tried to cut or create.
He rode a stationary bike at yesterday's light practice and is questionable for tonight.
"There was a huge amount of confidence on the bench," coach Jay Triano reported of the darkest moments in the game. "Alex (English, one of the team's assistant coaches) said, `We're down 22 but we're going to come back and win.'
"And I told the players in one of the timeouts we were going to come back and win the game so let's start playing sooner rather than later. There was just a feeling about it – we knew we could come back."
And come back they did, rallying for a 104-89 victory that was punctuated by a 16-0 Toronto run in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Raptors average 108.1 and yield 108.6. For Denver, they score 106.3 while giving up 103.0 a contest. Toronto has beaten some good teams so far so they’re feeling confident while Denver is reeling. Eight out of the Nuggs’ next 10 games are at the Pepsi Center, so you know they’re coming home hungry. This has the makings for an offensive classic. Sit back and enjoy your dessert.
Prediction: This might be my first pick against the Nuggets. I just like Toronto and what they’re doing so far, so Raptors by 4.
NO DEFENSE: If Chris Bosh bolts the Toronto Raptors as a free agent, it could be over the Raptors' abject failure to play anything resembling defense this season. "We're talking about trying to be a good defensive team, but we're not putting in consistent effort," said Bosh, whose team Friday night hosts the Heat. "I'm not questioning the scheme. We could talk about schemes all day — he's supposed to be here and he's supposed to be there. It's just about getting the job done."
Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, the Suns big men similar to theirs. Like Stoudemire, Chris Bosh is an inside-outside player. Like the Suns' Channing Frye, the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani is a 3-point threat at center. Toronto's Hedo Turkoglu is a wing who shoots and creates like Phoenix's Grant Hill. The Raptors' Jose Calderon is a probing, pass-first point guard in the mold of Steve Nash.
Stoudemire might guard Bosh, whose NBA-leading 10.7 free throws per game is helping him to a career-best 28.0 points-per-game scoring average.
"Chris is a guy they go to 30 times a game," Stoudemire said. "With us, we have a different style of play. You're not going to see too many one-on-one plays, as far as me going offensively at him."
Toronto has had a particularly tough time trying to stop Amare Stoudemire in recent years. The Suns’ big man averaged 28.0 points and shot 65.3 percent in his last three games against the Raptors.
Stoudemire, though, is coming off his worst game of the season, going 2 for 15 from the field and finishing with eight points. Stoudemire and his teammates may have run out of gas in their seventh game in 10 days.
“We are going to try to get our proper rest and get ready for these big games moving forward,” Stoudemire said.
Toronto began a four-game road trip on the right foot, beating the Clippers 104-89 on Friday night.
Amongst those acquired were Bosh’s college roommate Jarrett Jack, who has fit in immediately, and Bosh’s energy and competitiveness has risen to a new level since his arrival.
The team, now with Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems, rookie sensation DeMar DeRozen, the return of Rasho Nesterovic, and, when cleared to play, Reggie Evans, has a completely different look than last year.
The additions of these players along with the continual progression of Bargnani down low has been nothing but beneficial to Bosh.
Amir Johnson was key in the comeback, pulling down 9 boards in 19 minutes of playing time while sharp shooter Marco Belinelli continued his stellar shooting with 15 points off the bench.
Belinelli, along with Antoine Wright, will force Triano to possibly rethink his decision to start hopeful rookie DeMar DeRozan at the point. DeRozan, who has better athleticism than both his backups, receives less minutes while in the starting role and has trouble containing opposing guards.
TORONTO – the Raptors are another team that added a lot of long-term salary this past summer, guaranteeing them to be well above the cap next summer. Turkoglu, Calderon, Bargnani, Jack, Evans, Banks, DeRozen, Bellinelli and Weems represent $47 million in salary. Then add in either Bosh’s $17 million salary or a huge cap hold if he chooses not to pick up his player option. And even if Bosh leaves, the amount of cap room that the Raptors will hold might not be of the larger-than-MLE variety.
Really though, Douby, you gotta admit that you got quite a bit from a 10-day contract. When you were signed back in April I didn’t think much of it. You were there to replace Marcus Banks – big shoes to fill.
You did fine, rode that pine like a pro.
I kid. You weren’t all bench. I remember you could defend and you scored once in a while. For what was asked, you did okay.
So, thanks for that. It was cool.
Without a doubt, this has the makings of an incredibly entertaining game. Two of the top scoring teams going head to head. It also may be the biggest nightmare for the Raptors. As I’ve stated, the Raptors seem to do the best against lower scoring teams that don’t shoot well, or much, from outside and aren’t great rebounders. None of that sums up the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are 2nd in scoring, 1st in three pointers made per game, 3rd in field goal percentage, and 9th in rebounding percentage. I’m not overstating it when I say this will easily be the toughest test for the Raptors.
Since the Raptors are going to have a hard time outscoring the Suns, the only way the Raptors are going to win this game is by playing defense.
I’m amazed that it took me so long to realize how well Chris Bosh has been playing so far this season. For far too long, he has been pegged as just another decent big man, a guy not worthy of the franchise player tag, the other guy in the LeBron-Wade-Carmelo draft and the dude that plays in Toronto. Well this season, CB4 is taking his game to another level is hoping to get his team back into the playoffs this season. In order to do so, he will have to play his best when facing the best; time will tell if he will be able to do so, but let’s look at what he has been able to produce so far this season against some of the top teams in the NBA:
Though Chris Bosh is unquestionably the Raptors' go-to guy, the team's reliance on mutual playmaking starts with Hedo Turkoglu. While many coaches would prefer to have the prototypically athletic small forward, Triano sees a wing like Turkoglu as the fulcrum of an offense predicated more on faciliation than on one-on-one slashing.
…Not that we should discount the prominence of one-on-one play in the Raptors' offense. Bosh has been destroying opposing big men, both in the post and off the dribble. But that dramatic improvement isn't merely the byproduct of adding off-season muscle or, dare we suggest, being in a contract year.
"When you have a guy who's 6-10, can dribble and create, it helps a lot," Bosh said. "[Turkoglu] is very unselfish. He has a knack for passing and finding me in good spots."
The Raptors were at the Staples Center last night, fortunately not playing the Lakers, but rather the Clippers. Since the game was on the west coast, tip-off didn't start until 10:30 eastern time.
The Raptors came out flat as a board. The Clippers shot 75% in the first quarter and had a commanding 34-17 lead. Against the Clippers?
Then I fell asleep on the couch. Big mistake.
Toronto began a four-game road trip on the right foot, beating the Clippers 104-89 on Friday night.
Chris Bosh had yet another big game for the Raptors with 21 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. The four-time All-Star is averaging 28.0 points and 11.8 rebounds.
Marco Belinelli again gave Toronto a boost off the bench, scoring a season-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
The third-year guard is 11 for 22 from 3-point range.
"Guys from the bench are very important. We have to … be ready to be aggressive and that's what I do," Belinelli said.
He helped the Raptors reach 100 points for the eighth time in nine games. They are averaging 107.7 points compared to the Suns' 111.3.
Another crazy game for the Raptors last night …
A terrible 1st QRT was followed by a solid 2nd … a very good 3rd … and an outstanding 4th … as the Raptors overcame a 22-point deficit to win by 15 over the Clippers … 104-89.
Jonesy and I broke down the game in our latest VLOG — our 2nd one filed from LA — earlier this morning.
The first quarter was ugly as the Raptors got outhustled on the boards 14-4 and the Clippers managed to hold Chris Bosh without a field goal in the first. But that didn't last long. Chris Bosh woke up and put together 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists as the Clippers crumbled for the next three quarters.
The Clippers looked like they were the ones adjusting to the time change as they could not get their offense going on the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Chris Kaman led the Clippers with 25 pts and 7 rebounds but also got in the 4th quarter funk only going 1 for 4.
Believe it or not, the Raptors are heating up. They own a 5-4 record and sit in second place behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
With the rest of the division struggling — 76ers (4-5), Knicks (1-9) and Nets (0-9) — the Toronto hoopsters are working so hard they appear to be fighting themselves.
Photo of the day
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DeRozan did produce a basket on a driving layup in transition.
He didn't see the floor again until the beginning of the third quarter. On his first attempt from the field, he heaved an air ball.
But by then, the Raptors were much more competitive.
"He was pumped up for this game," Triano said of his rookie. "It was one of those learning experiences. He'll never be back here again for the first time. He'll be back here again and he'll feel more comfortable."
The Clippers completely abandoned their mindset after the opening quarter, going from a team that took advantage of Toronto's woeful defence in the paint to a team that hoisted ill-advised jumpers early in the shot clock.
The Clippers made 15 of 20 first-quarter shots and outscored their northern visitors 20-10 in the paint to jump out to 34-17 advantage after the opening 12 minutes.
The Clippers led by as many as 22 points in the second quarter.
It was at the Staples Center where DeRozan led USC to last season's Pac-10 tournament title.
He would win tournament MVP honours and opened many eyes in the NBA.
"There are some good memories of this place,'' DeRozan said as he looked around the empty building long before he and his Raptors teammates were to take to the floor against the Clippers.
"It feels like it's been a while since I played here."
When the Raptors arrived in L.A. on Thursday, DeRozan took advantage of the opportunity to visit with his family.
One of the unwritten rules of thumb in the NBA is to avoid playing in one's hometown because of the many off-court issues that surface.
Returning home as an opponent is an entirely different animal, a time many players express excitement and anticipation.
The first trip is often the most nerve-wracking.
As for tickets, all requests went through DeRozan's parents.
"I think they're more excited than me,'' DeRozan said.
The coach was happy, but not amused.
"I have no idea," he said. "We said we wanted to come out with three straight stops (in the first quarter) and we did and then they scored 15 straight (possessions) almost in the first quarter.
"I have no idea, I have no answers. Our coverages are where they're supposed to be.
"It's not a real high-energy group, but we find the energy as the game goes on, our offence starts to flow and we buy in at the defensive end."
Having watched his play progress and seeing him night in and night out with that unfazed calm demeanour which exudes professionalism, I wait with unbearable anticipation to see him let off that yell and show a bit of emotion after hitting a three at the end of a game to seal the deal as he did tonight against the Clippers in a 22 point come from behind win.
The addition of another Italian, Marco Bellinelli, who’s been bringing it at both ends of the court while coming off the bench, has been another boost seemingly for Bargnani and the team.
The Raptors are truly a mirror image and immaculate representation of the city of Toronto with its multicultural diverse blends.
# When Chris Bosh was held without a field goal in the first quarter, there was a brief feeling of "Maybe Camby's got his number tonight." But deep down, you knew it wouldn't last. Bosh finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists.
# Jose Calderon, who has been having a bit of an off-year, was magnificent in the second half. He scored nine straight Raptors points in the third to single-handedly take the lead. Marco Belinelli can play some two.
The opening 15 minutes of basketball plays out beautifully for the Clippers, exactly how you’d construct a best case scenario against Toronto. Marcus Camby uses his agility and length to stay between Chris Bosh and the basket. Chris Kaman bullies Andrea Bargnani down on the block, getting plenty of space for his step-back jumper. Baron Davis finds seams in a defense that’s been both slow to fight through screens and flabby in the interior once the offense has broken the plane. Al Thornton works close to the basket to get high-percentage looks. And the Clippers perimeter defenders chase the Raptors’ snipers off the line.