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Villanueva Comes Through in the Clutch - Raps Win first of the Preseason

Raptors' first round pick Charlie Villanueva had 24 points and 7 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors got their first win of the NBA preseason. With Alvin Williams making his long awaited Raptor return, the team headed to overtime on Charlie Villanueva's 3 straight free throws with less then 2 seconds left on the clock. The Nets had three chances to win the game in regulation but missed free throws and turnovers gave the Raptors' the chance to tie. Villanueva got an open look at a three pointer to tie things up but was fouled by Derick Zimmerman in the process of shooting. Villanueva calmly stepped to the line, drained all three shots and took the Nets to the overtime period.

Vince Carter had 20 points on 9-15 shooting in the 24 minutes that he played. While Vince was booed repeatedly when he touched the ball, it was hardly the same venomous wrath that Carter was subjected to in his return to Toronto last spring.

Game Notes:

The first thing that has to come out of this game is how well Charlie Villanueva has been playing. His offensive game is incredibly polished and with each game he looks more and more confident. Villanueva was 3 for 4 from behind the arc last night and offers a completely different style of play then Chris Bosh, the player many "experts" were claiming he was a clone of. I'm expecting to see these two on the court at the same time A LOT. There is of course room for improvement and the one area that really smacks of it is defensive positioning. At times Charlie still makes the rookie mistakes of not boxing out or getting good position for rebounds.

Speaking of Bosh he had a tough game last night. While he had an array of good looks his shot just wasn't falling. Bosh only played 29 minutes but was a factor in getting to the foul line and playing aggresive D.

The Raptors' were once again outrebounded last night 49-37 but the twin terrors of Rafael Araujo and Loren Woods played much better. Hoffa does look quicker this year and displayed this on several occasions including a nice post route finishing in a thunderous dunk. Hoffa always moves well without the ball, has a nice midrange jump shot and does really make an effort on boxing out and defending. But is he really a center? For the first time last night I was left wondering. He actually has some nice offensive post moves but rarely displays them as the ball is usually in CB4's post possession. Hoffa only had 2 rebounds in 20 minutes of play and just does not get good position on the glass. He seems more suited as a mid-range jump shooter then an offensive put-back post centerman. As for Loren, he's just not big enough to bang with the Marc Jackson's of the league. He's a better offensive finisher around the rim then Araujo though and he had a beautiful "fake and repost" basket where he also drew the foul in the overtime frame. If Loren got more touches on offense he might be more valuable to the team as a scoring option thus making his defender tire on the defensive end. Woods may never be Tim Duncan but he did in fact play behind him at Wake Forest before transferring and was one of the nation's top players in college.

The Red Rocket Matt Bonner started in the place of the injured Mo Pete last night. Peterson has a mild ankle injury apparently and Bonner filled in quite admirably. Although he didn't shoot with his usual percentages, he did grab 8 rebounds (huge to get from the SF position) and had some great open looks and hustle plays.

Point guard play was a key factor in the Raptors' win last night. Jose Calderon had his best game so far in a Raptors uniform with 15 points, 6 assists and 2 great steals. Calderon looks to be a great change of pace guard from Mike James and I think the two will be a great complement to each other. In fact Mitchell had the two playing together at times as well. Calderon only turned the ball over once and it's too bad because it would have resulted in a ridiculous Chris Bosh dunk. Miscommunications like this though are normal in preseason as teammates get to know each others games. Tierre Brown, Robert Pack and Corey Williams all played key minutes at the end of regulation and through overtime and each looked worthy of a spot in the NBA. Williams in particular played well drawing a charge, scoring 10 points and dishing a couple of assists out in only 10 minutes of playing time. He was extremely aggressive and looked quite comfortable leading the offence. His Rucker Park skills were on display too as he beat his opponent off the dribble several times to get to the basket. However if Alvin Williams can successfully hold down a third point guard spot, the writing may be on the wall for Pack, Williams and Brown and they may all be cut as Babcock looks to add depth at the center position. The Raptors were badly outscored in the paint and considering the Nets talent at center, this does not bode well for facing teams like Miami, Detroit and even Milwaukee.

Perhaps the most dissappointing player for the Raptors last night was Jalen Rose. Jalen was up to his old tricks last night drawing an unnecessary technical foul and baiting the referees. He can still score with the best of them using his crafty moves but his defence is almost non-existent. Also, the offense just isn't as efficient with him in the lineup trying to go 1 on 5. If we could see what Joey Graham has to offer, Rose may be better suited to coming off the bench as instant offense...or being traded to clear the way for Graham and negate any possible headaches he might cause.

Finally, the key to last night's win was the Raptors' ball movement on offense. With Calderon and even Mike James running the show the team got great open looks on the wings and easy interior baskets. Players like Araujo and Charlie Villanueva have great passing skills for their positions and this just makes the offense run that much more smoothly.

As for the Nets, they had their chances to win this game and should have closed it game out. When Kidd, VC and Richard Jefferson played together it was obvious that this will be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league. However they still lack anything close to a dominant interior presence and the Nets "beefed up bench" was suspect at best.

Oh and our buddy Lamond?...8 points on 4 of 9 shooting before fouling out...I think we've all seen this movie before folks...