Raptors stung by Hornets

New Orleans Hornets' Emeka Okafor grabs a rebound from Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani....

New Orleans Hornets' Emeka Okafor grabs a rebound from Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani. (REUTERS/Misty McElroy)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS — This has got to be getting old for the Raptors.

Gritty efforts and little to show for it. Let’s face it, the only people who talk about moral victories these days seem to be members of the media.

Those doing the losing don’t see anything good in a loss and Monday’s, on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon, was no different.

For a while there, it looked like the Raptors had another Dallas upset in them.

Like that Dec. 28 win over a Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks, the Raps went into this one vastly undermanned.

Unlike that game, in this one the Raptors came up short.

Just before tip off they added Linas Kleiza to a growing list of players unavailable for duty as he sat out with a sore right knee.

That left Jay Triano with a starting five that included Julian Wright and a bench of four healthy bodies, none of which play the shooting guard or small forward positions.

The Raptors bench consisted of three bigs (including Solomon Alabi who did not play) and point guard and recent arrival Sundiata Gaines, who is here on a 10-day contract.

And yet the Raps had a nine-point lead with three minutes to go in the third and were right there for the win in the dying seconds.

Whether it was fatigue, they had a seven-man rotation to the nine the Hornets had — or yet another spotty officiating effort — Nick Buchert and Gary Zielinski can forget about any Christmas cards from the Raptors after this one — New Orleans did just enough and got just enough breaks in the final two minutes to pull out a 85-81 win.

Where the Hornets were full value for this win was their second-half rebounding. Emeka Okafor pulled down a career and franchise high-tying 12 offensive boards. David West had another four.

In one series that seemed to last three minutes, the Hornets got seven consecutive shots as Okafor got them extra possession after extra possession.

“Emeka had 12 offensive by himself and that’s what really killed us,” DeMar DeRozan, who had a Raptors-high 23 points said after the game. “If we rebound better in our own zone, we will definitely be all right.”

And the Raptors had just enough empty offensive possessions of their own down the stretch to help the Hornets cause along.

With the exception of Andrea Bargnani who threw up 17 shots and connected on a total of four, just about every Raptor that Jay Triano sent out there gave him what he needed. Jose Calderon didn’t score but he did have 13 assists in the game.

But with no bench to go to, Bargnani, as ineffective as he was, was out there for a game-high 41:55.

The play that summed up Bargnani’s afternoon came with about two minutes remaining and the Raptors down by one. Bargnani was out on the edge of the arc and jab stepped David West once, twice and a third time. West didn’t bite on any of them so Bargnani passed it four feet to his right to Jose Calderon with the shot clock about to expire. The hurried three missed the mark and the Hornets went the other way and extended their lead from the free throw line.

It was not a vintage Bargnani afternoon.

Triano appeared to give him a pass on this one after the game.

“Our guys played hard, but enough of our main guys have to play a little better to steal a game like that,” Triano said. “(Andrea) just had one of those games. He has been carrrying the load for us, but it seemed like everything was in a bit of a rush for him today. We tried to slow him down and get him different looks, but obviously when you have as many guys out of the lineup as we do they will focus more of their attention on him. They did that.”

The lasting memory of this one will be the countless Triano incredulous looks as one call after another went against his team.

Talking about it, or specifically being quoted about it, afterwards just opens up the individual to a hefty fine starting at $25,000 from the league offices so not surprisingly everyone from Triano on down was careful not to let their tongues cost them any money.

To add insult to injury, the spark that got the Hornets going when they seemed lifeless was former Raptor Jarrett Jack who came off the bench to score 17, all but two of them in the second half.


Videos

Photos