Point guards are supposed to run a basketball team's offence, which Toronto's Jose Calderon and T.J. Ford did admirably last night.
They also ran the New York Knicks right out of town.
Calderon picked up nine points, seven assists and six rebounds after three quarters to pace the Raptors to a 84-67 lead over the Knicks at the rocking Air Canada Centre. Ford took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points in the final 12 minutes, while adding three assists and two boards, as Toronto prevailed 115-92.
Exactly the type of performance from his two point guards head coach Sam Mitchell says his club will need if they hope to do well in the regular season stretch-run and in the playoffs.
"Jose has played a lot of minutes, and as we make this stretch run, if you look at our schedule, we're playing just about every other day until the end of March, so we need both of those guys," Mitchell said.
Ford has missed 31 games this season mainly because of back and neck problems, but returned to the lineup on Friday in New York. His performance last night showed that he is not far off from his old form.
25 FOR BARGNANI
The other key to Toronto's win last night, which answered a dismal 103-99 loss at Madison Square Garden on Friday, was the play of second-year centre Andrea Bargnani. He scored a team-high 25 points, along with seven boards, two blocks and five assists. Bargnani also tied his career-high with five successful three-point field goals. Bargnani's contributions were welcome early as all-star forward Chris Bosh was forced out of the game for much of the first half after running into early foul trouble.
"Andrea was huge for us," Mitchell said. "When CB got in foul trouble, Andrea had to play a lot of minutes in the first half, and he didn't pick up any bad fouls. He played great, he was just so consistent shooting the basketball."
The exceptional play of Bargnani and Ford allowed Mitchell to limit the minutes of Bosh (27) and Calderon (29), which was big as the Raptors tip off again tonight in Indianapolis against the Pacers.
Yesterday's game also marked the Raptors debut of centre Primoz Brezec, who was traded to Toronto on Thursday from Detroit for Juan Dixon. Brezec made the most of the opportunity, scoring 11 points with three boards. He was an instant hit with the fans with his enthusiasm and litany of humorous gestures after each Raptors basket.
"Somebody with that type of enthusiasm can pick you up a little bit, especially (54) games into the season," said Mitchell, adding that the colourful Slovenian already has started calling him "gangster."
"Rasho (Nesterovic) told me that when Primoz first came to the United States, he learned his English (so that) everything he says starts with 'gangster' and ends with 'pimp.' I don't know who he was around or what movies he was watching. But I don't think my name is coach anymore."
No matter what he calls him, Mitchell said he'll keep playing the 7-foor-1 centre if he brings the same energy level.
"It's always been my motto, the guys who play well, play," said Mitchell. "I thought he did well for a guy who didn't really know what he was doing. He was talking on defence. He was active. We know he can score the ball round the basket, he's got a nice little shot."
"Definitely," said Brezec, when asked if he brings that type of energy to every game. "When I'm on the court, I give my best. If I play one minute, two minutes, I don't care. That's just me, the way I play."
The Raptors tied a season high in rebounding, pulling in 51 boards to 36 by the Knicks.