Raptors return the favour

Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani double team Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nikola...

Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani double team Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nikola Vujcic Thursday at the Air Canada Centre. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

If last season's shocking pre-season loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv set a negative tone for 1-15 start to the Raptors regular season, a season in which they squeaked out just 27 wins, what did last night's 118-84 win signify?

Obviously it's too soon for anyone to tell, if it meant anything at all.

The Raptors are 5-0 now in the pre-season, their best pre-season start ever, but no one is rolling out any championship banners.

"We understand it's the pre-season" coach Sam Mitchell said after the game.

"We know when the regular season starts it's a whole new ball game."

Players like Jose Calderon were quick to downplay the significance of last year going into the game, that Maccabi was just another pre-season opponent, no different than any NBA team, capable of winning on any given night.

Still, the 105-103 loss last year was a shock to many. "It was an embarrassment for us," Morris Peterson admitted after last night's win.

"(Last year) was in the back of my mind. It did put a damper on the beginning of the season for us."

Said Mitchell: "Obviously, I felt a lot better (after the win)."

All ancient history, now. Chris Bosh was a surprise starter for the Raptors, showing no ill effects from the heel injury that kept him out of the previous two pre-season games against Cleveland and New Jersey. "I didn't want to get too much out of shape," Bosh said.

That was the positive from the Raptors' perspective, seeing Bosh move around in 25 minutes of play. He finished the game with 16 points, and seven boards. A potential negative was watching starting point guard T.J. Ford grimace while grabbing his left hamstring after a layup attempt in the second quarter, but in the end it was only a cramp, and he was back in the second half.

The game was supposed to be tough for the Maccabi players, if you believed all the pre-game talk about fatigue. The game against the Raptors was the last in a challenging four-game junket against NBA opponents, which included two games in Europe against San Antonio and Phoenix, then a trip to Cleveland this past Tuesday.

You wouldn't have known it from the jump Maccabi had from the opening tip last night, however. By the first half they were shooting close to 58% from the floor, including 50% from three-point range, and held a 55-53 lead. With some vocal fan support for the Israeli squad among the announced crowd of 14,430, visions of last season danced in people's heads.

Peterson said later that Mitchell was all over the team at the halftime break for lackadaisical defence.

"Coach got on everybody," he said. "I missed some assignments. But we made some adjustments. They were just stepping back, shooting threes (in the first half), but we put some pressure on those guys, made them pass the ball. I thought we did a good job in the second half."

Raptors' Anthony Parker, who played for Maccabi last year, went 5-for-7 from the field and scored 11 points.


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