Raps creating a buzz

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- Perhaps it was fitting that the Raptors finally decided to make things easy for themselves in the Big Easy.

That would be easy on offence, but by no means easy from a game standpoint.

This game was anything but easy with the Raptors carrying the play in the first half, the Hornets battling back to take control in the third and the early part of the fourth before Toronto regained the momentum and rode it to a 97-92 win.

They survived Chris Paul, a 90% free-throw shooter, going to the line for two freebies with 25 seconds left and his team down by one. Paul somehow missed both, giving the ball back to the Raptors.

Following a timeout, the Raptors got the ball in Jose Calderon's hands and he killed 20 of those remaining 25 seconds before Paul was forced to foul him. Calderon then hit both shots to restore the three-point lead.

Down by three and with 5.9 ticks left on the clock, the Hornets drew up a play and Peja Stojakovic missed an off- balance three.

The Raps were down by 10 with nine minutes to go in the game but went on a 17-5 run to take a lead with just under three minutes to play.

The theme of the night was the resurgence of the Raptors offence.

"We started playing like a team again," point guard Jose Calderon said. "We tried to find our open guy and move the ball more.

"We put some new plays in and we were finding open guys early on.

"We needed to do something because the past two or three games we weren't moving the ball. We had become too stagnant."

With only a one hour 15 minute practice in Houston and then an hour shoot-around yesterday, Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell managed to get his point across.

In no specific order, he wanted his Raps driving to the basket aggressively, getting into the bonus as early as possible and, in general, doing whatever they could to create easy baskets. A series of low scoring games had Mitchell worried enough that he cancelled plans for an off day following the Houston game and had his team practise before boarding a plane for New Orleans.

"(Last night) our starters stepped up," Mitchell said. "Our bench, which was great against San Antonio, didn't do so well, but our starters got it done. I told (Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani), the way they battled with David West having it going and Tyson Chandler, was so tough. I thought both my guys went at (Chandler) early in the game so he couldn't stay out there and dominate the game defensively. It was nice to see all those guys play the way they did."

Mitchell got his Raptors driving the lane for most of a 52-point first half. There was even a first-half Jamario Moon drive that resulted in an easy finger roll bucket with Moon so far above the defence no one was going to be able to get in front of it.

It's exactly what Mitchell has been asking of Moon since the 27-year-old rookie began to get comfortable. Moon made the basket look so easy it had Mitchell applauding from the Raptors bench.

He then went out in the second half and did it again, drawing more applause from his coach.

The Raptors wound up with 48 points in the paint, their highest total on the road this season.

Bosh led the Raptors with 29 points while West had a game-high 33 for the Hornets.

The Raptors win snapped the New Orleans' five-game winning streak and sends the Raps home with three wins on a tough seven-game trip.

"When this trip could have been disastrous, to go on a long one like this and get three of seven, you would like it to be a little bit better but it could have been a lot worse so you are thankful," Mitchell said.


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