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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Raptors Rally to Beat Lottomattica Roma, 93-87

Chris Bosh had 23 points and nine rebounds as the Toronto Raptors defeated Lottomattica Roma in an NBA Europe Live Tour game. Jason Kapono added 15 points, making all three of his three point shots, and Andrea Bargnani contributed 13 points and seven rebounds. Christian Drejer, a smooth shooting forward, led Lottomattica with 23 points; he shot 4-8 from three point range as Lottomattica connected 12 times from long distance. Jon Stefansson scored 19 points and ex-Celtic Allan Ray had 15 points. All of the NBA Europe Live Tour games use a mixture of NBA and FIBA rules and are officiated by crews that have NBA and FIBA referees; obviously, all of the games are road games for the NBA squads, who also have not been in training camp quite as long as their European counterparts have.

The Raptors got off to a good start and led 23-19 by the end of the first quarter. The basic strategies of both teams became evident pretty early in the game, as outlined by ESPN2's Hubie Brown, who provided color commentary while sitting alongside play by play announcer Rick Kamla in ESPN's studio: the Raptors enjoyed a decisive advantage in the paint with Bosh, Bargnani and even a reserve player like Kris Humphries, while Lottomattica's strengths are three point shooting and scoring in transition. This game was entertaining to watch not only because of the contrasting styles of the two teams but also because the cross-pollination that has happened in recent years in basketball was on full display; European teams often have several American players on their rosters, while many NBA teams have players from various countries on their rosters. It is worth noting, though, that in general the best non-American players seek to play in the NBA, while the American players who go overseas are almost always ones who have not been able to make an NBA roster.

Lottomattica outscored Toronto 26-21 in the second quarter to take a 45-44 halftime lead, as Brown pleaded with the Raptors to get out on the three point shooters on defense and to pound the ball inside on offense. Lottomattica used a barrage of three pointers to go up 65-58 by the 4:14 mark in the third quarter. Jason Kapono scored seven points in the last two minutes of the period to help Toronto tie the score at 66 going into the fourth quarter.

NBA teams often rest their starters toward the end of preseason games, as we saw yesterday when Toronto lost to Boston, but that was not the case in this contest; clearly, no NBA team wants to lose to a non-NBA team, even in a preseason game. Bosh and several other key Raptors players were on the floor at the start of the fourth quarter but the score was still tied, 75-75, with less than eight minutes to go. Unfortunately, ESPN2 lost its feed from Rome for about three minutes of game action. During that time, Toronto made a run, leading Brown to joke that he and Kamla must have been holding the Raptors back. The play by play sheet indicates that Juan Dixon made a runner, Kapono nailed a three pointer and Bosh hit two free throws to give Toronto an 82-75 lead; ESPN2 regained the feed at that point. About a minute later, Anthony Parker made a three pointer and the Raptors enjoyed their biggest lead of the game, 85-75. Lottomattica got no closer than five points the rest of the way. Bosh did not check out of the game until 1:14 remained and Toronto was up by eight.

During the game broadcast and during the time that the feed to Rome was not working, Brown offered his take on this year's Raptors. He likes the acquisition of Kapono, who was Miami's third leading scorer last year. Brown believes that Toronto is a team on the rise but says that the Raptors must improve in two areas: defense and drawing fouls. The ability to stop teams and the ability to get opposing big men in foul trouble will both be important when Toronto plays against top teams, Brown said. As for the Boston Celtics, who are many people's chic pick to win the East, Brown does not buy into that at all, noting that there will be a lot of pressure on players 4-10 in the rotation to prove that they can make meaningful contributions, particularly during the playoffs. He agreed with Kamla's suggestion that Boston may have a better chance to make a deep playoff run in 2008-09 after the team has had a full season together.

posted by David Friedman @ 8:39 PM

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