Bargnani flourishing in Bosh's shadow

San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan is defended by Raptors' Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh.   (Jack...

San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan is defended by Raptors' Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh. (Jack Boland/Sun Media)

MIKE GANTER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:06 PM ET

It was Chris Bosh’s night, no question. He made the big basket when his team needed it most, helping the Raptors ward off a potentially crippling San Antonio comeback.

More impressively, he eclipsed Vince Carter as the highest scorer in team history and then, as expected, dominated the post-game locker room. All of it was richly deserved.

But there was another of the Raptor bigs who had a pretty big Sunday night himself, the kind of night that speaks to what could be if he could just bottle it and bring it out on a consistent basis.

Andrea Bargnani’s night didn’t make headlines like Bosh’s, but it was a headline-worthy night just the same.

The fourth-year Raptor has had headline-worthy nights before but this one was different.

This time, it wasn’t just his offensive numbers that jumped off the post-game scoresheet, although those weren’t inconsequential either — 15 points on a night when scoring was hard to come by.

The number that jumped off the page Sunday night was the five blocks Bargnani had.

Combine that with the fact that much of the night he was defending perennial all-star Tim Duncan and you have to wonder if Bargnani has reached a turning point in his career.

The five blocks mark only the fourth time in his career he has reached those heights, but that wasn’t the only reason for optimism.

Raptors head coach Jay Triano appears to have decided it is time to put a little more on Bargnani’s plate as well, another sign that the big Italian is progressing.

Big minutes

Triano has had him on the floor for more than 40 minutes in four consecutive games. In those games, Bargnani has averaged 20 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Even better, the once seen-but-rarely-heard Bargnani seems to have turned over a new leaf.

Suddenly he has become a very vocal presence on the floor, particularly at the defensive end.

And this has been going on for a while. Numerous times over the past couple of weeks, Bargnani could be heard barking out coming screens and picks for guards in front of him while keeping his own opposite as far away from the basket as possible.

And when those screens and picks have impeded his guards, Bargnani has flashed out from beside the pick to force the quicker and more agile opposing guards to take a longer path to the basket, allowing his own guards time to recover and switch back on to their own man.

Previously, all the talk on the defensive end was being done by the trio of Bosh, Jarrett Jack and Antoine Wright, but lately Bargnani’s voice has been just as dominant.

When Bargnani’s newfound habit was mentioned to Triano about a week ago, the Raptors head coach shook his head and muttered something that sounded an awful lot like “Finally.”

Clearly the team has been on him to step up and Bargnani appears to be doing just that.

Bargnani and the rest of the Raptors were up early for a flight to Florida and they’ll be back to work today preparing for the ultimate test in opposing big men in the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard.

Between the two of them, Bosh and Bargnani will have their hands full.


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