Duo dynamics

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Almost from the moment Andrea Bargnani was selected first overall in the 2006 NBA draft, questions abounded as to whether he could play alongside Chris Bosh.

Those questions became concerns whenever Bargnani struggled with his offence or was unable to stay out of foul trouble.

While he's far from a finished product, Bargnani, at least in the past two games, has showed a willingness to attack the basket and put added pressure on defences concerned with Toronto's spot-up shooters.

Bosh has seen the improved play and the impact the Raptors' two-headed big-man monster has on the teams.

"Right now he's picking up his game,'' Bosh said yesterday as the Raptors convened at their Air Canada Centre practice facility following the team's mini holiday in south Florida, where the host Miami Heat was more than hospitable.

"He's continuing to improve and I'm improving. We do that and we put pressure on a lot of defences.

"As well, we take pressure off of our teammates."

Back-to-back 20-point games, including a career-best 28-point night against the Los Angeles Lakers, has many believing that Bargnani's sophomore woes are behind.

But keep in mind that the Lakers went with a small lineup in the wake of their trade for Memphis Grizzlies' Pau Gasol and that the Heat basically was reduced to a D-league team.

In a nutshell, neither team had anyone capable of defending the paint, making drives to the basket a little easier for someone like Bargnani, who has yet to establish a consistent pattern of attacking the rim.

Bosh, though, likes what he has seen.

"Right now, he's picking his play back up,'' Bosh said of Bargnani. "He needs that confidence. I know a lot of people are in his ear, but I just tell him to play well."

What makes Bosh hopeful of future gains is Bargnani's willingness to attack early in games, rather than just settle for jumpers.

Moreover, by taking his defender off the dribble, Bargnani can score easier when he gets to the basket. At worse, his dribble-drive forces defences to collapse and Bargnani has shown a flair for making the right pass.

"We still have to win a lot of big games and we're still not an elite team,'' Bosh said. "Until we're an elite team, we can always be better.''

Bargnani can't pinpoint any turning point to his game, but he does acknowledge how much he has elevated his game in recent matchups.

"I'm just playing better,'' he said. "I'm always trying to dribble-drive."

In Monday's 114-82 cakewalk over the Heat, Bosh and Bargnani combined for 46 points on 17-of-25 shooting.

One aspect of Bargnani's game Bosh has learned to appreciate is his passing skills, unique for a seven-footer, especially when he gets into the lane.

"I keep my hands ready,'' Bosh said of Bargnani's dishes. "He passes hard and I've got used to it."

Just like they've got used to playing off of each other.


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