Fearsome frontcourt

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

The Raptors' frontcourt was front and centre yesterday at the Air Canada Centre.

It wasn't exactly the most traditional way of dominating a game, but the latest look of Toronto's frontline looked awfully good.

There was Andrea Bargnani putting the ball on the floor and getting to the foul line with regularity.

There was the irregularity of Shawn Marion and Chris Bosh combining to make exactly one trip to the charity stripe.

But Toronto's three-headed monster worked because each piece played to its strength.

Bargnani is a jump-shooting seven-footer who has that rare ability, given his size, to beat a defender off the dribble.

The New York Knicks go with a small lineup and don't have an intimidating presence in the paint capable of blocking or altering shots.

Bosh has yet to reclaim his rhythm on offence, but he was protecting the glass, getting his hands in passing lanes and communicating.

Marion was doing what only Marion can do by running the floor, pushing the ball after hauling down a rebound and playing instinctive basketball.

For one game, it worked to perfection on a team that has plenty of work ahead with so few weeks remaining in the regular season.

As if anyone needed any reminders, whatever success the Raptors are able to produce will be based on the team's frontcourt.

Bosh, Marion and Bargnani each posted double-doubles.

The triumvirate accounted for 55 of Toronto's 111 points and 37 of the team's 50 rebounds.

As Bosh gets more comfortable in his return from a knee sprain, many of the misses will be converted into baskets.

Bosh, admittedly, is more focused on his defence, at least for the time being.

As long as Bargnani is being assertive, the offence doesn't have to always go through Bosh's hands.

"If (defences) collapse on me, I'm going to make the first easy pass and just try to work my way into it,'' Bosh said.

Bosh's offence will come because he poses so many mismatches.

No one wanted to see Jermaine O'Neal leave town, but his game wasn't complementing Bosh and the team often stood around when the ball was in O'Neal's hands.

The departed centre left a void in terms of interior toughness and defence, areas that cannot be addressed this season.

In three games as a Raptor, Marion has produced two double-doubles and helped Toronto to one win.

His offence will come once his new teammates, and in particular starting point guard Jose Calderon, begin to understand his game and to get him the ball when Marion is beating his man down the floor.

Marion checked in with five assists, but he could have easily reached double digits had the Raptors made more shots off of his feeds.

Marion and Bosh can each pass out of double teams, a rare double threat.

"It's coming together,'' Marion said. "We're all starting to understand each other."

The Raptors aren't running any plays for Marion because he simply hasn't had the time to learn any of them.

The way he's playing, perhaps he shouldn't.

"There is no system to that,'' head coach Jay Triano said of the way Marion gets his points. "Until he learns some of our schemes, we just say rebound the basketball, push the ball up the floor, run and see what is available."

That's the luxury of having a unique player such as Marion on the floor.

The Raptors have pieces, but there's just not enough.

For now and for the balance of the season, they have to rely on their frontcourt because no other consistent option exists.

Anthony Parker will make shots, but a team can't rely on someone who goes from being scoreless to flirting with a career-high game.

The ball has officially been placed in the hands of Bosh, Bargnani and Marion.

Now we'll see just how far this group can take the Raptors.


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