Raptors watch

Frank Zicarelli

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

VETERAN STILL HAS IT

He has one practice under his belt with his new teammates and doesn't know the team's offensive sets.

Say what you want about Rod Strickland, but the veteran point guard knows how to play and how to dictate tempo.

For the second game in a row, Strickland was on the floor in the fourth quarter, only this time he helped lead the Raptors to a win.

"That's just what he can do,'' Vince Carter said of Strickland after Toronto's 84-76 win over the New Orleans Hornets. "I've played against him. I've seen him do it.

"He's been doing it for 16 years. He can get the ball to the right guy and put him in a position to score. It's amazing because he doesn't know this team that well yet."

Strickland asked for his release from the lottery-bound Orlando Magic. The Raptors signed him on Friday and quickly had Strickland in the game against the Knicks.

Against the Hornets, Strickland played 24 minutes, had six points, five rebounds, five assists and one turnover.

When the Bugs came with pressure, he knew how to handle it. More importantly, he controlled tempo.

"Rod still can't run the plays because he doesn't know them,'' Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill said. "I thought Rod played well for us and finished well for us."

LOOKING OUT FOR NO. 1

With the Raptors down to their final 19 games, each game looms large because of the playoff implications.

Carter said he wasn't concerned when he woke up yesterday and noticed the Raptors were in 10th spot in the East.

"It doesn't matter,'' Carter said. "I still say win as many games as possible and let the records take care of themselves. You can't get into a panic mode. Just take care of your business and everything else will take care of itself.''

CAPITULATION AND DEFEAT

The Hornets didn't exactly wave the white flag but they played like a team that didn't want to win.

"Around the third quarter, with about five minutes to go, coach looked at us and said:`These guys don't look like they want to play, let's take advantage of it,'" Morris Peterson said. "And that's what we did."


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