Raptors Rapid Recap - New Orleans Hornets 85 - Toronto Raptors 81


-Another game, another tough loss to swallow for the Toronto Raptors.  After leading this one for over three quarters, the under-manned Raps allowed the New Orleans Hornets to wear them down in the end, and with a little help from the refs, lost 85 to 81 in the game's final seconds.

-The refs will take a ton of heat for this one as they blew a couple calls down the stretch, however the Dinos didn't do themselves any favours in terms of effort and execution in key moments either.  Toronto shot only 45% on the afternoon, managing only 16 fourth quarter points, and at the other end, missed some key rebounds that gave New Orleans much-needed second chance opportunities.

-In fact rebounds, perhaps to no one's surprise, were the story of the game.  If you look at the final box score, the teams were pretty even in all categories, however the Hornets pulled in 19 offensive rebounds to only 12 for the Raps.  That difference of 7 may not sound like a lot, but in a game decided essentially by two possessions, it's huge.  Emeka Okafor grabbed an incredible 12 of these offensive boards himself, and many-a-time Toronto's bigs were caught standing around watching.

-Number one on the "watching list?"  Yep, Mr. Bargnani.  Besides an atrocious 4 of 17 shooting performance, he was also the victim of Okafor all afternoon.  After one particularly lax rebounding effort resulting in an easy Okafor 2, Triano even tore into his star player, hoping to coax some more grit in the paint from the Italian.  However by that time the Hornets had already drawn even, and the Raps execution offensively down the stretch did the rest of the damage along with the refs.

-DeMar DeRozan led the way with 23 points for the Raps, and put in a very solid effort.  Ed Davis was the team's MVP early on and finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.  Jose Calderon, coming off a near triple-double, had a game-high 13 assists, but failed to score a single basket, going 0 for 5.  With no Linas Kleiza (knee), Jerryd Bayless (ankle) and Leandro Barbosa (leg), that just wasn't going to get it done in an MLK Day match that saw Bargs struggle as much as he did.

-New Orleans was led offensively by David West with 23 and 10 double-double, but Okafor as mentioned was the real story.  He chipped in 17 points too, was a game-high plus 18, and got solid help offensively from former Raptor Jarrett Jack (17 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds.)

-The bad news is the Raps now have to take their four-game losing streak to San Antonio, then onto Orlando and Miami before they can return home.  The worse news is that this game was an all-too familiar case of "poor execution down the stretch meets terrible paint protection."  The defense with Julian Wright starting in place of Linas Kleiza was much better today, but if these other two elements don't get addressed asap, the club might as well send their D League team to the final three road trip destinations.

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