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News » Toronto out of the gate with a bang

Toronto out of the gate with a bang

Toronto out of the gate with a bangBasketball REPORTER

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 evidence of a new defensive attitude or a fluid offensive approach.

Then came last night when the new-look Raptors actually looked new, and in front of a sold-out Air Canada Centre and hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James and old friends Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon in town.

The final score, 101-91 Toronto, doesn't quite tell the story. The other day Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said, referring to his retooled team: "The unkown is intriguing." And that was before a club with nine new faces and an unproven head coach dismantled the Cavaliers, leaving them and their championship aspirations 0-2 on the season.

Toronto [1-0] were 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 and watched an 18-point halftime lead go 'poof' in the third quarter. Cleveland came back to tie before the Raptors actually finished the game, closing out the third quarter with a 9-2 run on the back of Antoine Wright's twisting lay-up over James and a jumper by rookie DeMar DeRozan that gave Toronto a seven-point cushion to work with in the fourth quarter that passed mostly without incident.

It made sense too on a night when Andrea Bargnani was near note-perfect with 28 points in just 30 minutes and Chris Bosh grinded his way to 21 points and 16

rebounds that there were contributions throughout the lineup.

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. While most of the attention in the buildup to the season was reserved for what newcomer Hedo Turkoglu might bring or the impact of a bulked up and motivated Bosh or perhaps the prospects of rookie DeRozan, the Raptors 57-39 blowout of the Cavaliers through two quarters came from less likely sources. Twice Andrea 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.

Bargnani, was a revelation, opening up the Raptors season by slashing baseline for a dunk and on one sequence drilling a three at one end, blocking a shot at the other and then running the floor and finishing with an alley-oop on his way to 21 first-half points, on 8-of-11 shooting, his only miscue a blown fast-break dunk.

There was support in the form of Calderon, his balky hamstring days behind him for now, as he attacked his man hard, moved the defence and counted eight first-half assists. 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.

Turkoglu was perhaps most noteable for his modest effort. He didn't force the game in his first meaningful action in Toronto, though he was a calming influence and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, the ball coming to his hands and leaving them, perhaps his most sustained contribution in the third quarter.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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