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News » Plenty to build upon

Plenty to build upon

Plenty to build uponIt's one game. Jose Calderon, the Raptors point guard, said it again and again and again Wednesday night.

"It's one game."

And it was.

But the Raptors' resounding season-opening win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 101-91 roller-coaster in front of a raucous sellout crowd, was an awful lot of fun to watch. And it probably said a lot about what you can expect from the local hoopsters this season.

You can expect a team that's going to thrill and disappoint in quarter-game intervals, a squad that, as the Raptors did Wednesday, squanders a 21-point lead to deflate the building, only to pump the place back up with an impressive game-sealing rally. You can expect a team that's going to get a tireless effort from its contract-year cornerstone, Chris Bosh, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds. And you can expect a team that's going to be tricky to beat on evenings when Andrea Bargnani, the mercurial Italian 7-footer, provides the kind of inside-outside presence he displayed on Wednesday, when he racked up 28 points and five rebounds, scoring on the drive and on the jumper, and making a 37-year-old behemoth named Shaquille O'Neal look like a past-due slowpoke.

"Shaq couldn't guard him. He was everywhere," said Calderon of Bargnani. "There's not too many guys, seven feet, who can do what he does. ... If he plays like that he's going to be one of the best at his position. It's going to make things easier for us."

Big-picture NBA watchers will tell you Toronto's success had as much to do with Cleveland's shocking offensive paralysis as Toronto's defensive competence. Still, the Raptors were five-point Vegas underdogs, and teams coming off 33-win seasons don't get picky about their dubyas.

It's one game, of course, and 48 minutes was enough for the new-look Raptors to show you how much they resemble the old-look Raptors .

This is a team that's going to take turns shooting three-pointers, a team that still, when the going's tough, doesn't have a go-to play to get an easy basket. But they shot an encouraging 37 free throws, which spoke to a thrust toward the basket. And the pre-season focus has been on implementing a credible defensive scheme, so certainly Cleveland's 35 per cent shooting suggested the home team was doing a little something correctly.

The Cavs have their own problems. Their offence, long noted as one of the NBA's least imaginative systems, looked more stagnant than ever. A Jamario Moon air ball here, an Anthony Parker brick there - the presence of the former Raptors on the visiting side made Cleveland's many moments of stasis look positively Toronto-esque. James, a night after the megastar's club folded down the stretch in a loss to Boston, looked unconvinced of the merits of passing the ball. And O'Neal, the new-in-town man-mountain who's working himself into shape, signalled to coach Mike Brown for a breather after six minutes of midtempo work.

There are Raptors , too, who appear to be working themselves into shape. But GM Bryan Colangelo has made it his managerial modus operandi to assemble teams of shooters for a reason - teams that can shoot, on nights they're shooting halfway decently, are never an easy out. And when they supplement their long-range threat with the occasional drive to the bucket - as Bargnani and others did Wednesday; as the Raptors haven't done nearly enough in recent memory - they give defences fits.

"I think we showed how good we can be," said Calderon. "At the same time, we've got to keep pushing and build on this. It's just one game."

Indeed, Jay Triano, the Raptors coach, handed Bosh the gift of a walk-off standing ovation on Wednesday night, subbing for the all-star in the final ticks, the game clinched. But if the gesture was of respect, Triano's words to Bosh spoke of a need for relentlessness. It's one game, with 81 ahead.

"When he came off at the end I told him, 'This is what's expected,'" said Triano. "There's no time to celebrate. Let's build."

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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