Raptors, Nuggets deliver

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Toronto Raptors shooting guard Anthony Parker said it best prior to tip-off when he addressed the sold-out crowd of 17,534 at Rexall Place last night.

"We are from Toronto, but we'd like to think we represent you as well," Parker told the loud and boisterous fans.

It's been nine long years since the NBA and the Raptors have been to Edmonton for an exhibition game.

Judging by the excitement, it may not be long before the Raptors are back.

Could this be the start of a trend of the Raptors or other NBA teams holding an exhibition game in Edmonton on a more regular basis?

Maybe not every year or every other year, but certainly not nine years apart.

"We do take it seriously, we're not just Toronto's team, we're Canada's team," said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo.

"We're the only NBA franchise in a vast country and it's important for us to take the word of the Raptors and be able to put our show on the road, so to speak."

The Raptors gave Edmonton basketball fans the entire Raptors home game experience against the Denver Nuggets, bringing their own personal DJ, their cheerleaders, their own announcer and their team mascot. The only thing about the game that didn't have a Raptors feel to it was their purple and black floor. They had the University of Alberta Golden Bears floor instead.

The only negative was the fact that the Raptors were unable to put the exclamation mark on the night as they fell to Denver 105-94.

Edmonton fans gave both teams a standing ovation as they walked off the court.

"That's the important part. We don't want to put on anything other than a top-notch Raptors game experience. We want to bring this as close as we possibly can to the Toronto Raptors experience," said Steve Fruitman, who is the Raptors senior director of basketball operations.

The fans weren't treated to just a ho-hum exhibition game. Both the Raptors and the Nuggets played their stars for significant minutes.

Chris Bosh played almost 30 minutes and scored 17 points and three rebounds. Jermaine O'Neal played just over 13 minutes in the first half and contributed two points.

The Raptors leading scorer was Andrea Bargnani with 19.

Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony finished with 15 points in just over 28 minutes.

More than 8,000 fans hustled to their seats more than an hour before tip-off to catch a glimpse of stars such as Bosh and O'Neal.

The Nuggets have a lot of star power too, most notably Carmelo Anthony. Allen Iverson was the only big name star who didn't play. He was back in Denver nursing an ankle injury.

The last time the Raptors were in Edmonton was back on Oct. 18, 1999, when they beat the Vancouver Grizzlies 110-84.

Edmonton is known as a hockey-crazed city, but for one night they showed they can be a basketball-nutty city too. Edmonton basketball fans gave the teams the star treatment normally reserved for the Oilers. They sang along to the Canadian national anthem and went crazy on every big dunk or huge block.

"It's been an overwhelmingly positive response. I will say this blew away my expectations," said Fruitman.

"I've been doing this for five years, and we've done this at other Canadian cities, and this is by far the strongest support we've had."

Needless to say there won't be nine years between the next visit.

"The NBA is looking at that. Even if the Raptors aren't involved they would like to bring NBA games here."


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