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News » Raptors open with big victory

Raptors open with big victory

Raptors open with big victory


Bargnani, Bosh lead the way as Toronto overcomes LeBron's triple-double to hand Cleveland a second straight loss


So that's how it's supposed to work.

For most of a summer and then all of the fall the Toronto Raptors have promised much, but delivered little of substance; certainly the team's herky-jerky preseason showed little tangible evidence of a new defensive attitude or a fluid offensive approach.

Then came last night and their 101-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and former Raptors Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon.

The other day Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said, referring to his re-tooled team: "The unknown is intriguing."

It's just one game, but how about exciting, as the Raptors dismantled the championship hopeful Cavaliers [0-2] and won for the eighth time in 15 opening nights?

One player overlooked in the off-season with all the changes was Andrea Bargnani, who finished last year strong but whose consistency has always been a question mark. He started his fourth season with a bang, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-15 from the field, including 21 in the first half. He also did his share on the other end, holding his ground in wrestling matches with O'Neal.

"We just fed him the ball," said Raptors point guard Jose Calderon, who finished with 11 assists. "We just looked for him every pick-and-roll, every play. The great thing about him was even with the foul trouble he was fighting with everybody, Shaq was not easy. And he did a great job helping us on our pick-and-rolls too."

Toronto was up 15 points with just under five minutes to play, and it was James looking to his bench with the "What is going on here?" look that has graced the Raptors sideline so often.

The Raptors jumped out to a big lead early, watched an 18-point halftime lead go 'poof' in the third quarter, before steeling themselves with a 9-2 run to finish that quarter, a stretch in which free-agent signee Hedo Turkoglu showed his best stuff on an otherwise ordinary night as he finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but calmed affairs with his ball-handling during the Raptors' few dicey stretches.

James couldn't engineer a comeback despite a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Parker had 12 points in his return and Moon added nine with five rebounds off the bench. Toronto held Cleveland to 35.4 per cent from the floor while Toronto shot 45.3 per cent.

Like the finish, the first half couldn't have unfolded better than if scripted as the Raptors' 57-39 blowout of the Cavaliers through two quarters came from less likely sources. Twice Bargnani, for example, went to work in the post against James and twice he came away with well-earned scores; a nearly unthinkable development this time a year ago.

"I have to do that with a smaller guy on me otherwise I'm out of the game," said Bargnani.

There was support in the form of Calderon, his balky hamstring days behind him for now as he attacked his man hard, moved the defense and counted eight first-half assist. Marco Belinelli came off the bench, shook off a desultory preseason and caught fire, delivering an unlikely highlight as he turned the corner on a Bargnani screen and flashed through the lane for a two-handed dunk on his way to a 10-point second quarter.

After the final buzzer Triano pulled Bosh aside with a simple message:

"That's what's expected," said Triano. "There's no time to celebrate, let's build."

Bosh has as much riding on this season as anyone and while his offensive polish wasn't as sharp as usual he competed with exceptional grit, racking up 21 points and 16 rebounds while making 12 trips to the free-throw line, evidence that his weight room work in the off-season may pay dividends.

He pronounced himself pleased, particularly noting the contributions of Bargnani, but given this is the start of his seventh season in a Raptor uniform, he sounded a note of caution.

"Last year we were 3-0 and we were the hottest team in the East and you saw the results."


NOTES DeMar DeRozan became just the third first-round pick in Toronto Raptors history to start on opening night. he opened at the two-guard spot opposite Anthony Parker, the former Raptors player who was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Cavaliers over the summer. "I watched film on him. He's a great shooter; you really have to limit his sweet spots," DeRozan said. "[But] I don't feel too much pressure, you have to let the game come to you and go out there and try to get a win. It's my job, it's what I signed up for. My mom is nervous after she saw Shaq-KG [Shaquille O'Neal-Kevin Garnett] last night. She said if I go to the hole and he fouls me like that, she might over-react and everything." LeBron James offered this advice: "He don't want to go up against Shaq, that'd be bad." ? The Raptors lost all three games they played against Cleveland last year by an average margin of nearly 18 points a game. ? New Raptors guard Jarrett Jack extended his iron man streak to 207 games, the fifth-best active streak in the NBA. ? Jose Calderon was honoured before the game for setting an NBA record for free-throw shooting after converting 98.1 per cent of his attempts last season. He then promptly missed both his shots on his first trip to the line. ? Anthony Parker got a big ovation from the ACC crowd when he was introduced with the Cavaliers.

NEXT Friday at Memphis Grizzlies, 8 p.m. EDT


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