No Bargs, no Calderon and yet a good fight put forth by Toronto. Unfortunately as the HQ's Sean Tepper notes, it wasn't enough....
There were a lot of things that I was expecting to see from the Raptors before last night's tip-off.
I was expecting to see a blowout at the hands of one of the NBA's elite teams.
I was expecting to see Derrick Rose manhandle Jerryd Bayless in Jose Calderon's absence.
I was expecting to see Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans bully Toronto's interior defence.
But I can't say that I was expecting the game that actually took place. Not with the Raptors taking to the hardwood having lost five straight games and playing without two of their everyday starters.
Despite my negative thoughts and pessimistic outlook on the game, the Dinos played what I believe to be one of their most exciting games of the season.
Chicago may have led by as much as 13 points in the first half and went into halftime being up with a comfortable 10 point lead, but the Raptors managed to claw away at the lead as they managed to come within four points of the lead with more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But then Kyle Korver netted a clutch three, and despite Barbosa's best efforts, Derrick Rose's floater with 26 seconds left in the all but sealed the deal for the surging Bulls, who have won 15 of their last seventeen games.
While Derrick Rose did manage to light up the Raptors for 36 points, which included 10 assists, and the Bulls did win by seven points. 113-106, the Raptors managed to hang in there against a team that has a legitimate shot at an NBA championship.
And that was with one of the youngest line-ups in NBA and Raptors history and without their top scorer and leading assist man.
Additionally, DeRozan and Bayless' 26 point night coupled with Davis' 17 points and 11 rebounds gives Raptors fans a glimmer of hope for the future.
DeMar DeRozan showed once again that he can score, Jerryd Bayless showed that he can put up solid offensive numbers, and unlike Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis showed that he could put up points and dominate the boards
Although they can hold their heads high knowing that they fought toe to toe with the Bulls, the Dinos don't have any time to celebrate as they are set to take on the depleted Orlando Magic at the Air Canada Centre tonight.
With J.J Reddick, Chris Duhon and Gilbert Arenas all expected to miss time with individual injuries and illnesses, the Magic (48-28) may have to rely on a nine man roster to take care of the hapless Raptors.
With that being said, here are tonight's keys to the game.
- Let Dwight Score: In the two games where these teams have met, Howard has scored 25 56 points while grabbing 27 rebounds. With that being said, the simple fact of the matter is that the Raptors have no answer for the all-star centre. So why try and stop him when he obviously can't be stopped? Toronto can let Dwight Howard score as many points as he wants as long as they isolate the rest of their dwindling squad from scoring. Now I know that that is easier said than done when those other players include Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson, but it is possible. At least I think it may be.
- In DeRozan and Davis We Trust: Whether they care to admit it or not, DeMar DeRozan is Toronto's best player on the court and the Triano will have to look at him to propel the Raptors to an upset victory. DeRozan scored 26 points and Ed Davis score 17 on seven for eight shooting in last night's loss, but Toronto will need another strong game from their young nucleus if they hope to have a chance at defeating another one of the NBA's elite.
- High-Tempo Basketball: With Orlando expected to have only nine players at their disposal, the Raptors need to establish and maintain an up-beat and fast tempo. With a limited bench, Orlando will not have the luxury of giving their star players a long rest, and if the Dinos can use this to their advantage, then they should be in a strong position to win this game.