Hornets 90, Raptors 96 – Box

Not to be boastful, but, YESSS!! I did it!! Rather, they did it. With a 96-90 victory over the visiting New Orleans Hornets, the Raptors improved their record in games I cover to 1-9, ending a remarkably unlucky streak for yours truly. Overall, the Raptors improve to 17-44, not that it really matters at this point in the season.

Still, tonight’s victory was thoroughly impressive, with appreciable contributions from seven rotation players (sorry, Leandro). A big thank you must be given to Chris Paul as well, as he had the worst game I’ve ever seen him play. Paul struggled to post a 7-4-5 Pts-Rbs-Ast line on just 3/10 shooting. More importantly, he was absolutely torched by Jose Calderon, who had maybe his most complete game of the season. As a team the Hornets shot 44%, but without Paul firing on all cylinders they managed just 17 assists on 36 field goals, and their scoring was largely a product of one-on-one basketball (granted, that’s not the worst strategy against the Raptors).

David West chipped in with 17-and-10, while Marco Bellineli added 13 points on 14 mostly ill-advised shots. It was the other ex-Raptor, Jarrett Jack, who was most productive for the Hornets, scoring 17 points of 7/9 shooting in just 27 minutes off the bench. Even still, he couldn’t make up for Paul’s egg and Emeka Okafor’s no-show (a single point and seven rebounds). I’ll refrain from making a DUI-related joke here – since I already did on Twitter – but Jack was definitely feeling the buzz of his former hometown crowd and really drank it in.

Really, though, this game was about Jose and the Raptors. While they almost let a 17-point third quarter lead slip away (it got as small as two points in the fourth), the Raptors played well-balanced basketball and earned this win. As a team they shot 49%, no doubt aided by the fact that 29 of their 39 field goals were assisted. The rebounding and turnover differentials were negligible, and the end result was a product of offensive and defensive execution.

Defensively, the Raptors didn’t do anything groundbreaking or outside the box, however, the effort level was high except for the lull late in the third and early in the fourth. The defense didn’t glaringly deviate from the norm, but it was extremely active, and this forced mistakes and visibly frustrated the Hornets. The combination of Amir Johnson, James “Silky” Johnson, and Ed Davis was especially pesky, combining for 10 blocks (seven by Amir alone, who had a great game defensively to go with 10 rebounds and eight points). Davis continues to show a high basketball IQ and good timing on his blocks, and Silky Johnson appears to be, at worst, a more skilled version of Julian Wright. Johnson is long, built solid, and very athletic, which should make him a tough match-up for a lot of threes, and even some power forwards. The plus-minus doesn’t necessarily back my point up here (the unit takes something off the table offesnively), but it’s a good combination to throw out at more athletic teams or to create transition offense.

On the offensive end, the Raptors executed well and spread the offense around. Most of the credit is due to Jose Calderon here, who crafted a masterful performance. Jose posted 22 points on 7/10 shooting (3/4 3FG, 5/5 FT), adding seven rebounds and 16 assists. Early, he looked for teammates first, saving his scoring for the fourth (10 points) and allowing other teammates, especially DeMar DeRozan, to get into rhyhtym. It just felt like Jose’s night from the onset, and the point was driven home with three minutes left as he turned a 1-on-3 transition into a layup after completely blowing by Chris Paul, who had forgotten the idea of angled pursuit. After the game, Jose made reference to their January 19 meeting, when he was held scoreless (with 13 dimes but seven turnovers), and you have to love that competitive quality about Jose. And you have to love performances like this, even if Raptor Nation does tend to be a little hard on him, myself included.

DeRozan looked primed for a big game when he entered the break with 15 points, but he made just one bucket in the second half, finishing with 17 on 8/17 shooting. For his detractors out there, no, he didn’t add much else (one rebound, only one free throw attempt), and while I understand the concern, I’m just appreciative that his mid-range game has improved so much. If he can consistently sink the turnarounds and straight jumpers that we saw tonight, and eventually stretch that out to the three-point line…well, then I’ll get on his case for the other stuff. I realize this is asking too little of a player, but for right now I’m taking what I can get….this is my first time covering a win all year, y’kno, so I’m in a positive mood.

For those of you who aren’t….there’s Andrea Bargnani. Bargs was allegedly still feeling the effects of the flu tonight, so maybe we can forgive his 14-point, three rebound performance? I mean, he shot 6/16 and for a while in the second half was really forcing his offense, but he did draw a fourth quarter charge (!!!), and break a sweat (whether or not that was flu-related, I can’t be sure).

Sonny Weems had an up-and-down game as well, pouring in 12 on 5/8 in the first half but taking a Nestea Plunge to cool down in the second, going 1/4 the rest of the way, missing a transition bucket and clunking a mid-range jumper off the backboard. Still, save for the Charlotte game it’s the best he’s looked in a while, and you wonder if Silky Johnson’s presence has started to light a fire under him. Then again, it was just one game.

Speaking of Silky…no, I won’t explain the nickname, but it has a root. Please just trust me on this one, go with it, and I would be insanely appreciative if it caught on. If not, life goes on, but it’d be a real win for me in an otherwise dim season. Johnson showed some promise again tonight, going for 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. Through four games, he appears to be a keeper, a solid rotation player, and better than anything the team would have been able to pick up with the late first-round pick they gave up. I’m sure there’s a reason Chicago soured on him (maybe he always tried his Tae-Kwon Do moves on teammates?) but I’m yet to see anything negative enough that he’d fall out of our rotation. He is fairly turnover-prone, sure, but he’s extremely active defensively and sees the floor very well for a wing player.

Am I missing any key points from tonight? I probably am…as the Hornets came back from down 17 to cut the lead to two, I was already writing another negative doomsday-ish article in my brain, and I kind of forgot most of the early positives. So I spread the love around. Hey, the Raptors won a game I did the post-game for…this is a good day. Thank you Jose Calderon, and thank you Chris Paul.

  • Wheeler1522

    Buc Nasty, what can I say about that suit that hasn’t already been said about Afganistan? It looks bombed out and depleted

    • mikeyraps

      First of all, I wanna thank God for giving everybody so much, and me, so little. I hate you, I hate you, and I don’t even know you and I hate your guts. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you, and nobody else, but you. And as I stand here sippin’ the soda that I’m sure somebody spit in, I just wanna say yall can kiss my ass you rotten motha-fuckas. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go home and put some water in Buck Nasty’s momma’s dish. Good evenin’!

      • Jonathan R.

        Does anyone know what any of that means ?

        • sleepz

          Dave Chapelle show.

    • tonious35

      …you forgot to follow it up with “it’s very insulting on what you said about my coat, it’s made from your momma’s pubic hair”.

  • Theswirsky

    Does anyone else think Chris Paul is in the process of pulling a Carter? He sure as hell had no desire to win the game last night. NY get ready.

    • SweetRiverBaines

      Couldn’t agree more – he looked totally disinterested.

      • yertu damkule

        IMO, he looked totally like a guy one year removed from knee surgery who’s trying to figure out how to still be “CHRIS PAUL” when his body won’t let him. there’s lots of frustration there, but i don’t think it has as much to do with the team (i.e. either his teammates or the situation with the franchise) as it does with frustration over him not being able to do the things that made him the best PG in the game.

      • Balls of Steel

        OMG, who will the Knicks give up? I think they’re just going to wait til 2012. But with the New CBA, Paul ain’t gonna settle for small potatoes while Amar’e and Melo pig it up at the money through.

    • Raptoronto

      And with the NBA owning the team it will be very interesting to see how they play this out.

      ….media hounds will never miss another NBA wedding either…where player collusion happens.

  • Milesboyer

    Great victory last night, hopefully there won’t be too many more of those this year but this was one that just felt like it needed winning. Tremendous effort and activity by the bigs in the paint, Jose was sublime, and the team looked very cohesive with good role definition, and that’s something we don’t see every game.

  • KJ-B

    Uhmmm… #7 and the ol’ flu bug–the best part of that is he and the team just played ball. No one force fed him the rock and the entire got to touch the ball–Jose needed this! The team, management, etc, because playing the 2 man game is never a match for 5 strong…NOW only if they can continue to keep #7’s touches down and spread the Love…

    Hmm what would that look like..? My guess is last night a heckuva lot much more often!

    • hound

      I agree. This is what a team game with Bargs should be. I admit to not seeing the 3rd quarter, but I thought Andrea played hard in the 4th and that charge he took brought me out of my seat and gave me hope. He went 0-3 from the three line which is becoming a concern. But if he could of hit 1, maybe 2 of those his line wouldn’t have been to bad. Fact is, he should take 14-17 shots a game, play harder on the defense like last night (at least in the 4th quarter) and use his fouls like he did (5). This team needs everyone going to win and that’s what it did. I do not believe in tanking and I am looking forward to the raps winning both in London.

      • mountio

        To me, this game provided good evidence for both sides of the AB argument. There is no doubt that we had some great defensive spurts with JJ/AJ/ED providing a great spark. AB was half asleep at the start of the game and JT made a good move to pull him quickly. We relied on the energy of hte team without him and that got us a nice lead – based mostly on our D (and Jose of course who was out of his mind).
        At the same time, there is no doubt in my mind that we needed him in the fourth, when the NBA game changes dynamic completely, and you need guys to score in the half court offense on set plays (when the other team knows its coming). Hes the only guy on our team who can do that. There was one play especially when he posted up Landry (finally) and shot a very simple turnaround over top of him. Without him in there, we were pushing shot clock violations on a couple of possessions and it might have been Dallas all over again where a quick start is all for not because we cant score in the second half.
        Not sure if this was the perfect mix of shots / PT – but it worked and gave me cause for hope ..

        • Nilanka15

          Would that mean that Bargnani would be more valuable to the team coming off the bench as a scorer, eliminating that need from Barbosa currently? If so, would Colangelo have the stomach/balls to let it happen? Rhetorical questions, I know. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

          • mountio

            Perhaps not rhetorical – anything should be on the table to use our players most effectively.
            I know this – hes the only guy who can be a crunchtime scorer for us (assuming the concept of “crunchtime” becomes meaningful again for this team) and hes the best crunchtime scorer weve had since Vince. I also know that guys who can score when they have to are what differentiate great teams from good teams. BUT – we are not anywhere near being a good team, so that point might be moot, since we have to take the step of getting good and being in games before we worry about winning close games. And, its obviously circular, since his lack of D is part of what keeps us from being good.
            Anyways – Im not sure that off the bench is the right answer as teams will start to game plan against DD or whatever our new first option is on O, making it less effective. I am defintely in favour of a quick hook and less shots though if hes either not producing offensively or showing zero enegry defensively. Especially if the rest of the team is rolling like they were against NO.

  • c_bcm

    A good win for morale, but a devastating win for the big picture.

    I’m still a bit reserved on my admiration for James Johnson though. He’s played 4 games, and so far he hasn’t made me regret the move. But, as we have all learned from the Bayless experience, we need to stay grounded on our opinions of new players. So far, so good. But I will refrain from the type of boasting that we as Raptors fans are known for until the season is ended and there is more material to evaluate.

    Jose has heart. I’ve always liked this guy and always thought we should keep him regardless of what this team is going through. He’s a great leader and is maturing as a point guard a’la Nash. Not that he’s even approaching Nash’s capabilities, i’m just drawing a comparison between the timing of their skill development. This team still needs a stud point guard, but Jose should be kept on as a mentor for said stud.

    • Daniel

      Define what a “stud” PG would do better than Jose. He’s 5th in NBA in assists, 1st in ASS/TO, has 2 seasons of 50/40/90 shooting. He’s better without Bosh and he makes everyone around him better. He plays at a stand still with all the good PG’s in NBA, he’s an excellent team player and doesn’t complain when he’s almost traded or coming from the bench behind other “studs” like TJ and JJ. He’s the only elite skilled player we have and you think we need a better player than him? I would be happy to draft a good back-up PG in this weak draft year or a wing who can shoot 3’s. I’m not against drafting BPA whatever it means for the rest of the roster. However don’t make it as if PG is our position of need when in reality it is our strongest position.

      • FLUXLAND

        Umm… I’m glad the Jose love is “being proven right”, now that the bar has been set so fantastically low. It’s funny how when there’s no pressure of the playoffs, or a hungry PG breathing down your neck, or the local media writing things in the paper that hurt your feelings and he’s not suffering from the common cold, Jose is efficiently putting up numbers.

        A stud PG: “carries the team”, “leads with his play”, is spoken of in a positive defensive light, is the unquestionable QB of the team regardless of who’s the franchise player, makes key shots during game and in the clutch, can create his own shot, has at least 1 (NBA) career 30 pt game,etc etc etc.

        Your boy is an efficient, off the bench spark plug PG who due to his “unselfishness” (read lack of any real offensive threat to his team or opponent) would best fit on a team of solid vets where he can ensure everyone gets his; although I doubt he has an chemistry creating abilities, seeing the parade of players with whom he’s had a chance to play.

        Those efficient numbers you speak of sure look good on him, but what about the team?

      • c_bcm

        Like I said Jose is great, and has been great for the Raptors regardless of who is on this team. I guess my comment was more geared towards “developing” a stud PG. Jose will peak too early for this group if the Davis, DD, and Amir are the future of this team. Drafting a young PG who can develop into a stud will be best for this group. In the meantime Jose will teach the current roster how to play with a solid PG and help them develop their skills. He will even be useful as a mentor for the PG-of-the-future. But I personally think its bad timing for Jose to be that guy for this group.

        • Nilanka15

          Completely agree.

  • http://twitter.com/Buddahfan Buddahfan

    The Bulls didn’t need his rebounding, can you say Noah, Boozer, Gibson etc.

    The Bulls didn’t need his passing, can you say D. Rose and Watson.

    The Bulls have players like Deng and Korver who can shoot and Silky hasn’t shown that he can.

    He was an extra unneeded inexperienced piece on a team that could challenge for the NBA title this season.

    So I am sure that Johnson’s agent told the Bulls that his client wasn’t happy playing in the D-League or sitting on the pine waiting for a chance to play.

    The Raptors who are rebuilding with young athletic inexperienced players could afford to live through his growing pains and give him the minutes to gain the experience needed to become a solid NBA player. So BC saw the opportunity and took advantage of it.

    A no brainer trade by the Bulls and Raptors

    • FLUXLAND

      A no brainer, I agree. An even if this organization can “afford to live through growing pains”, there are some fans that are tired of the same old song and dance.

      If anything this is a typical BC signing and further cements the Raps farm team indictment.

      This guy was being told NBDL one minute, and here comes the hero BC, scooping him up and giving him free reign on the Raptors.. where everyone gets their (last) chance to prove the belong in the NBA.

      It’s just BC/MLSE turning over “assets”, using this team as their grade 8 accounting/investment project while allowing people to argue how statistically amazing and a great bargain all his trades and signings really are, and accusing the rest of the “fans” of “not really understanding what’s going on” because this is “all really complicated NBA stuff”.

      • barenakedman

        Actually it is quite simple. What are the chances of selecting a more talented player than James Johnson with the pick at the end of the round?

        The direction they are going in [youth] with an eye to success in a 2-3 years is not a plan I’d call the same old song and dance from BC.
        A lot of fans enjoy seeing the development of Amir, Davis and DeRozan and by the end of the season maybe there will be a couple of others that will fit into the big picture.
        There are no GMs that have their entire fan base in agreement with all their moves but this year I think he’s done a good job considering where this team started.
        I certainly don’t think there was much he could have done different that would have made them a team that was going to make some noise in the playoffs this year.

  • Ashylarry

    can’t believe people still want to trash Jose, what magical point guards do you think are going to come to Toronto and fill all of those requirements ?

    Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate..

    • c_bcm

      Its not hate. Most people on this site admire Jose and love what he has been for this team. But we need someone to grow with the young core we have here. Jose will be 30 next season, Davis’ second year. We need a younger PG who will grow with this group and learn from Calderon while he is in his prime (now?).

    • Nilanka15

      Let’s not get carried away. Calderon played an amazing game last night, but he still can’t stop anyone on defense. If you’re going to build a team from scratch, why settle for ageing, flawed veterans to lead the charge? It doesn’t make sense with plenty of young PGs out there.

      Like Tim_W mentioned a short while ago, did anyone think Deron Williams would be expendable if the question was asked a month ago? There’s no reason why guys like Steph Curry, Rubio, Lawson, Irving, Walker, Fredette, etc, can’t be attainable.

      That’s not to say Calderon is a waste. I think he’d be a great mentor next year coming off the bench, limited to 20 mins or less.

      • PeaceDawg

        If Cavs get to pick before the Raps, SAYONARA Kyrie Irving!! Which looks like it might be the case. Rubio may be a nice fit with the 1st round pick to Minnesota. Raps get a young seasoned QB than a newcomer who has to learn the ropes from scratch. Kahn gets a shot to recoup his battered image, Rubio comes to a cosmopolitan city to learn from Jose and the Raps get the team of their future. Only thing left is to get a big like Marc Gasol using whatever trade exception and trade bait Colangelo has left.

      • Guest

        PGs sometimes peak later in their careers – he could have 10 good years left. Nash doesn’t play defence better than Jose. I don’t think your suggestions are answers to anything other than the size of Jose’s contract which is large if Jose’s not playing next year at a level that is slightly above this year’s contract.

        Steph Curry – not a great defender, not coming to Tornto
        Rubio – Struggling in spain – high rookie salary
        Lawson – backup
        Irving – need to win the lottery but otherwise not attainable
        Walker – not an elite point guard, lesser version of Darren Collison, only a cost-saver, not an answer
        Fredette – bad defender at the college level, not a proven distributor

  • Bendit

    “Young seasoned QB”??

    What kind of seasoning was that? Are you elevating the Euroleague/Spanish league to the NBA? Have you checked his play this year?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504323292 Cito Knickz

    im still smiling…cant believe i missed my fav players best performance of the season

  • Maputo88

    Jose played well because he had big defenders who did their job. As long as AB is on the floor, very few chances are created and Jose cannot shine.
    AB plays like a girl and this is not going to change. As long as we have AB, Jose will be exposed on defence and will not get multiple opportunities to create assists

  • http://www.facebook.com/Radpoy Alex Taylor

    But AB *was* on the floor…

  • http://twitter.com/Buddahfan Buddahfan

    Just for the record

    Last night

    CP3 – Points 4
    Tony Douglas – Points 24

    CP3 is right now not a very good player.

    I think that Banks could have outplayed CP3 the other night if he were still with the Raptors.