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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 18.01.11
Raptors get stung by Hornets
Belly-aching Hornet can't backup his talk
This has got to be getting old for the Raptors.
Gritty efforts and little to show for it. Let’s face it, the only people who talk about moral victories these days seem to be members of the media.
Those doing the losing don’t see anything good in a loss and Monday’s, on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon, was no different.
For a while there, it looked like the Raptors had another Dallas upset in them.
Like that Dec. 28 win over a Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks, the Raps went into this one vastly undermanned.
Unlike that game, in this one the Raptors came up short.
Just before tip off they added Linas Kleiza to a growing list of players unavailable for duty as he sat out with a sore right knee.
That left Jay Triano with a starting five that included Julian Wright and a bench of four healthy bodies, none of which play the shooting guard or small forward positions.
The Raptors bench consisted of three bigs (including Solomon Alabi who did not play) and point guard and recent arrival Sundiata Gaines, who is here on a 10-day contract.
And yet the Raps had a nine-point lead with three minutes to go in the third and were right there for the win in the dying seconds.
Whether it was fatigue, they had a seven-man rotation to the nine the Hornets had — or yet another spotty officiating effort — Nick Buchert and Gary Zielinski can forget about any Christmas cards from the Raptors after this one — New Orleans did just enough and got just enough breaks in the final two minutes to pull out a 85-81 win.
Jarrett finding a new role with New Orleans
In an interview that appeared in the New Orleans Times Picayune on Monday, Belinelli was asked if he would could play on one leg against his former team.
“Against that team, yes,” Belinelli told the paper. “Maybe so. That’s my motivation.”
Seems Belinelli felt he got a bit of a raw deal in Toronto, much like he felt he got in Golden State.
“This is my fourth year in the league, and this is probably the first year I can feel I’m an NBA player for real,” Belinelli told the Times-Picayune. “You know because the first two seasons, I didn’t play a lot. Last year, I played until February. After the all-star break, I didn’t play a lot. It was a little bit difficult for me. But at the same time, now, I’m motivated to play and be strong, never give up. For now I’m so happy. I’ve got this problem with my ankle, but it’s not a big deal.”
But Belinelli wasn’t done. He didn’t just want to beat the Raptors. He wanted to punish them.
“You want to win by 20,” Belinelli said. “That’s my mentality. I want to win every game. But maybe against this team, Warriors, or Toronto, what was my team in the past, to win by 30 or 20, you know, that would be really good for me. I want to play good. I want them to know they made a mistake because I didn’t play.
“So that’s my mission.”
What Belinelli doesn’t choose to recall is that when he got injured last season, Sonny Weems took the opportunity and ran with it.
“Honestly, it’s beyond the players and the coaches,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said before the game. “If he has something against the organizations that’s on him. When he came back after his injury he was a little bit behind and when you’re behind you don’t get to play a lot and it’s tough to get that rhythm back.”
Belinelli will get one more shot at his old team when they visit Toronto on March 1.
For the record, Belinelli did not have time to talk to the Sun when approached before the game.
Smith: Young Raptors need to get healthy
“There were a lot of things that were, I guess, unspecified when I was in Toronto. I didn’t know if I was going to play 40 minutes or 17 minutes. Here I pretty much know what it is. Would I like to play more? Who wouldn’t. But it’s the situation and you have to know it’s bigger than you and you have to go with it.”
Jack says he is more relaxed in New Orleans than he ever was in Toronto.
“That’s what gives me peace of mind. You know what it is every single day,” he said of his 14-22 minutes a night. “You know when you’re going in, you know when you’re coming out. It kind of relaxes you in a sense. That’s something I didn’t really have in Toronto.”
Helping that relaxed feel along is the presence of Monty Williams behind the Hornets bench. Williams was Jack’s mentor in Portland when he was a rookie.
“He was basically the coach that was assigned to me when I was a rookie,” Jack said. “Also we’re from almost the same neighbourhood back home. We’ve known each other and have a mutual respect for each other. I couldn’t ask for a better situation this time around.”
As long as he remains content with 14-22 minutes a game, it sounds like Jack has finally found an NBA city to call home.
What the Raptors need down the stretch
It is the story of the first half of the NBA season for the Raptors, but it cannot be for the second if this season is to be anything more than a disappointment.
The ice bag next to Jose Calderon’s chair in the locker room.
The ice bag sitting on a chair waiting for Amir Johnson to strap on.
The ice bag around Linas Kleiza’s knee as he limped out of the New Orleans Arena.
Ice is such a constant companion to so many Raptors that it has become the symbol for what’s gone wrong in the just-competed first half of the season.
Reduced to basically seven men by the myriad injuries that cost them the services of Kleiza (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (ankle), the Raptors dropped an 85-81 decision to the Hornets here Monday afternoon to hit game 41 of 82 with a 13-28 record.
It was, in so many ways, such a fitting performance that the game could be seen as a microcosm of what’s gone on and, if they learn from past mistakes, a portend of good things to come.
Once again the Raptors played hard, competed and gave themselves a chance to win when, on talent alone, they shouldn’t have been close.
But once again, they failed down the stretch, their youth and inexperience a key factor in the little mistakes that rob teams of victories.
Feschuk: Raptors have limped through past decade
With 41 games in the books and 41 more to go in the season, a look at what each of the Raptors needs to do for the team to improve.
At 29, he’s the old man of the group and has to take on a leadership role. There is no doubting what his job is, no threats to his position; he has to emerge as the leader.
The second-year swingman has to continue to search out consistency and improve defensively. Finding a second go-to scoring move and a willingness to initiate contact on drives to the basket is a must.
The forward just need some time to heal — his right knee has been bothering him all season — but when he plays, he has to be more assertive in the post and less reliant on dribbling the basketball.
He seems to be over the back issues that plagued him in December, although they can flare up at any time. Continued growth in his offensive game would be a boost.
He needs to develop an attitude. He’s far too laissez-faire on the court at times, especially on the defensive end, and he has to, as they say, get after it far more often and far more aggressively.
Hornets come from behind to sting Raptors
Halfway into the first season since Chris Bosh, Toronto’s most recent perennial all-star, fled for Miami, the Raptors appear to be playing without even one all-star. Barring the widespread onset of dementia among the coaches who’ll vote to fill out the East’s roster for the festive February weekend in L.A., Toronto won’t have a single representative in the midseason classic for the first time since 2005, back when a present-day ESPN talking head named Jalen Rose was leading Toronto in scoring in the wake of the Carter-for-nothing trade to the Nets.
In a league ruled by alpha dogs, in other words, the Raptors are rebuilding without one. So maybe the question is, taking stock at the 41-game mark, can they develop one? DeMar DeRozan, as a 21-year-old sophomore swingman, has shown some flashes of all-star-style aggression, after all, at least on the offensive end. Andrea Bargnani, when he’s making his beloved jump shot, is a tough matchup, and, at $10 million (U.S.) a season, he’s decent value. And while rookie forward Ed Davis began the season with a pickup-game knee injury, which called into question both his judgment and his durability, he’s just 21 years old and, with a weight-room makeover, could become a real-deal inside threat.
What becomes of their careers? Well, that’s for them to decide. Nobody playing in Toronto is a lock to become an elite player. Work needs to be done, and it’s a grind to see which few NBA players religiously submit.
West leads Hornets past Raptors 85-81
David West and the New Orleans Hornets keep demonstrating they won't quit on each another — or their rookie coach — when play gets sloppy and deficits grow large.
West had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Hornets overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half to win their fifth straight, 85-81 over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
“Some nights you're just not able to get it going, but I thought we stayed steady,” West said. “Even when we got down, I don't think we lost our poise or lost control. Guys kept under control and we kept our defence set.”
For much of the game, it looked like the Hornets' winning streak would end with an ugly home loss to a Raptors squad that came in on a three-game skid.
Yet even as they struggled to score, the Hornets continued to show why they're among the top defensive teams in the league, forcing 16 turnovers for the game and holding the Raptors without a field goal during the final four minutes. That kept the Hornets within striking distance even through they shot only 39 per cent (34 of 87).
“This was a big win for us because this is a game we could have very well lost and we would have felt bad about it,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We've shown we can come back. It's not always the way you draw it up. We have character guys who show up and they're not going to panic.”
The Hornets pulled off the largest comeback in franchise history when they erased a 23-point deficit against Sacramento on Dec. 15. Since then, they also have overcome deficits of 13 at Washington on Jan. 1 and 16 at Houston last Friday night.
Jarrett Jack shines for New Orleans Hornets against Toronto
Williams said he allowed Jack, acquired early this season in a trade with Toronto, to play more than usual (26:56) because it seemed he knew where to find openings to score against his old teammates.
"Jarrett had it going," Williams said. "In a game like this, playing against his former team, you know a guy may have something special in the tank for that team."
DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and Johnson scored 17 points for Toronto, which led from early in the second quarter until late in the fourth.
"It's definitely frustrating. I wish we could have gotten that game," DeRozan said. "That would have been a big game for us. We can't let it get away in the last three minutes."
Toronto shot 44.6 percent (33 of 74), but was hurt by turnovers and New Orleans' 19 offensive rebounds, which helped the Hornets score 15 second-chance points.
Ed Davis had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Andrea Bargnani added 11 points for the Raptors, who were without starting forward Linas Kleiza because of his sore right knee. Former Hornets first-round draft choice Julian Wright started for Kleiza and had 11 points and six rebounds, helping Toronto build its 44-37 halftime lead up to double digits.
Using a 13-6 run that began with Wright's driving layup as he was fouled and which ended with Wright's dunk, the Raptors took their largest lead at 57-45.
Toronto still led by nine on Sundiata Gaines' 22-foot bank shot with 2:34 left in the quarter, but did not score again in the period while Jack hit a jumper, two free throws and a driving floater to cut it to 65-62.
The Hornets finally tied it at 76 on Thornton's free throws with 4:57 left, then took a brief lead on Jack's reverse layup.
West scored the Hornets' final seven points, converting Jack's feed inside to put the Hornets up 80-79 and hitting a free throw to make it 81-79.
DeRozen then hit two free throws to tie it at 81 with 40.4 seconds to go, but Toronto would not score again.
Now, to say the ride has been smooth would be a lie. Jack essentially has been a full- or part-time starter since his rookie season of 2005-06, has averaged about 30 minutes and double-figure scoring since then.
He has played as few as eight minutes, as many as 37 and just about everything in between for the Hornets. But give him credit for adjusting, for accepting his role behind Paul – and, depending on the matchups, along side Paul periodically – and finding a groove.
“Just seriously, trying to find a comfort level where I can direct people,” Jack said. “It’s hard to know where to direct them when I didn’t always know where I was supposed to be.
“It just takes time. I’ve never been through a situation where I was traded midseason. I see why people struggle (with it).”
The struggles appear to be easing, though.
Jack was on the floor with Paul down the stretch Monday, even after committing a turnover on consecutive possessions in the first 37 seconds of the fourth quarter.
He atoned with a 16-foot jumper to pull New Orleans to within 70-64 with 10:25 left, an 8-foot fadeaway to cut the deficit to 76-74 with 5:36 remaining and a reverse layup with
4:20 left to give the Hornets a 78-76 lead.
And when Toronto forged ahead again on Amir Johnson’s three-point play with 4:05 left, Jack assisted West on a layup to put the Hornets ahead for good, at 80-79, 17 seconds later.
“I think he had 17 points in 27 minutes,” Coach Monty Williams said. “That was big for us. He had a bucket and when we needed some stops, he did what was necessary to keep us afloat.
“His words were, ‘This is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.’ His minutes are up and down and I understand that. But I think his play helped us (against Toronto).”
And against Houston (23 points), Denver (10) and Washington (12).
True, there have been a couple of two-point outings mixed in, when Jack went a combined 2 for 13 from the field.
But those are becoming his exception rather than the norm, and New Orleans is benefiting.
“I try to have a positive influence,” he said. “It seemed we were in a little rut.”
Good thing for the Hornets he wasn’t. Better thing for them is that his are dwindling.