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Tip-In: Forget Last Season

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There’ll be no 0-9 start this season.

With a resounding 109-92 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in their home opener, the Raptors made up for a poor-shooting, opening night loss on Wednesday to even their record at 1-1.
Chris Bosh led the way with a monster of a game pouring in 26 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking two shots. Bosh looked the All-Star of last year beating his man to the basket, grabbing tough rebounds and scoring with a vast array of moves from short jumpers to powerful dunks. He also got the best of former Raptor Charlie Villanueva who was matched up against him. CV Smooth did have a good game himself with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and who received a well-deserved round of applause from the sell-out crowd at the ACC upon his introduction.

The Raptors collectively shot a blazing 53.4 per cent from the field while holding the Bucks to under 45 percent. They also got contributions from the entire club right down to the likes of Kris Humphries and PJ Tucker who played the final few minutes when it was clear that Toronto had the game well in-hand.

From our perspective here at the HQ, there was a lot to be happy about in this win and in fact, we felt that it was a must-win game. A loss at home would have really allowed sentiments of last year’s losing squad to creep back, and may have negated most of the positive aspects of the successful pre-season. Instead, a huge win that got everyone on the team involved should carry over to tomorrow’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, victims last night to Lebron James’ Cavs.

But besides getting that first win of the season, there are a few equally important things that we thought we’d take a look at:

1) Chris Bosh’s play: Bosh was outstanding and really looked to have put all issues of "rust" behind him with last night’s performance. His shot looked silky smooth again (he was 12 of 16 from the floor) and his quickness appears to be well on the way to returning. His conditioning is still not quite there, but coach Sam Mitchell did a great job of giving him a breather at the right moments.

2) Sam Mitchell’s adjustments: Kudos to the Raptors’ coach after last night’s performance. While we had our concerns about his rotations after Wednesday night’s loss to New Jersey, Sam now seems to have a firmly entrenched rotation using really only nine players. It was especially interesting to see the way he used these nine in essentially two units. In the pre-season we saw Joey Graham as a part of the second unit, which also consisted of Jose Calderon, Fred Jones, Jorge Garbajosa and Andrea Bargnani. But last night Mitchell had Graham firmly nailed to the bench and kept Anthony Parker out with the second unit for defensive purposes. And when Parker needed a breather, he went back to Mo Pete. Peterson and Parker did an excellent job defensively on Bucks’ star Michael Redd, hounding him into a 5 for 14 night of shooting and both provided timely offense and rebounding. And Mitchell wasn’t scared to shake things up a little more. When the Raptors’ second unit was getting killed on the interior in the first half, Mitchell made a change in the second half, leaving Rasho Nesterovic out with them. The result? Some timely offensive rebounds, shot blocks and a surprisingly nice offensive boost which helped the Raptors blow the game wide open.

3) Point guard play: Barring injury, Jose Calderon is going to remain the backup to TJ Ford, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better backup in the league. Ford played well again, pushing the tempo and at times displaying some ridiculous ball-handling skills, but it was Calderon’s clutch shooting and controlled play that really helped the Raptors start to pull past the Bucks in the second half for good. With each game Calderon shows just how beneficial his experience with Spain this past summer, as he looks so much more confident than last season, especially on the offensive end of the court where he knew exactly when to shoot the open shot, or push the ball and get to the rim.

So was the entire home-opener experience a positive one?

Unfortunately, we can’t say that was the case but this had to do more with the Raptors’ vaunted "In-Game" entertainment.

The new theme song was none other than Rage Against the Machine’s "Renegades of Funk"…a decent choice except that because of the bizarre opening courtesy of the TR Drummers and the ineffectiveness of the ACC sound system, it was apparently a lot more effective seen and heard via television and not live.

And the bizarre decisions of games and contests, including visuals of a noticeably uncomfortable Joey Graham dancing on the big screen while encouraging the crowd to "get down," had me seeing more than my fair share of tumbleweeds blow by.

On top of this, Canadian urban music princess Keisha Chanté apparently forgot that the stripes on the "Star Spangled Banner" were broad and not bright and hardly did either anthem much justice.

But hey, with the way the Raptors’ won this game and had the crowd at the ACC rocking unlike anything we’ve experienced in the past few years, the other stuff is just gravy right?

You bet.

The HQ Team