Chris Paul, the man with two first names, continues to make a huge name for himself in the NBA.
The rookie point guard recorded the first triple-double of his career as the visiting New Orleans Hornets stung the Raptors in double overtime, 120-113, dropping Toronto's record in extra time this season to 1-9.
It marked the first time since Nov. 16, 2003 that the Raptors, who now have lost four in a row, have played in double OT. But perhaps the most frustrating aspect of last night's game for Toronto coach Sam Mitchell was the fact that his team came back from a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter to force extra time, only to lose yet again.
The writing was on the wall for Toronto in the second OT frame when the Hornets went to the free-throw line nine times, converting on eight, while the Raps failed to get there even once.
"It's hard to win if you don't get any easy baskets," Mitchell said. "When we had Chris (Bosh), we got to the free-throw line (much more). Chris was getting there 12, 13 times a game and shooting 80%."
Bosh is out with a sprained left thumb.
The game did not mean much to the Raptors as far as the standings are concerned but New Orleans remained two games behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
It was, however, intriguing from the standpoint that it matched the two top rookies in the NBA this season, Paul and Charlie Villanueva. Both played exceptionally well.
Paul finished the game with 24 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds, including seven in the second OT period. Not to be outdone (too much), Villanueva recorded a career-high 18 rebounds, and had 25 points for his 10th double-double of the season.
Paul may not be as flashy as many of the other stars in the NBA, but his vision and imagination on the court is uncanny. The Hornets out-scored Toronto 52-42 in the paint, and much of that had to do with Paul feeding his teammates picture-perfect passes under the basket.
Toronto's Morris Peterson led all scorers with 27 points and had nine boards and six assists while Toronto point guard Mike James, who struggled from the field (5-for-25), had 15 points and 10 assists. Rookie Joey Graham had a career high 19 points. The Raps had a season-high 56 rebounds.
"The rim and I weren't on good terms," James said. "I normally treat her good, talk to her nicely. I never curse her out. But tonight, maybe she's a little mad at me. I'm going to give her flowers and candy before the next game."
The loss dropped Toronto to 26-47, while the displaced Hornets are 35-37.
The Raptors looked like there were going to stage a dramatic comeback victory. After trailing by 17 late in the third quarter, the home side turned on the offence and played some defence in the fourth, tying the game at 95-95 and sending it into OT after James just missed on a driving layup with two seconds remaining.
The first overtime period started well for Toronto. Peterson flew into the paint for an offensive rebound, which resulted in Matt Bonner scoring on a 10-foot jump shot for a 100-95 lead, which the Raptors could not hold.