Another close game, another heartbreaking loss for Raptors fans.

A 9-2 run by the Hornets midway through the fourth quarter provided Hornets with a 13 point lead at 83 to 70. Shortly after that the Raptors went on a 12-2 to pull within three at 92 to 89 but Chris Paul hit a bit shot as the shot clock expired to give the Hornets a five point lead with 24 seconds left in the game.

Huge props go out to Charlie Villanueva who played through flu symptoms lat night. Charlie went to the locker room in the third quarter but still returned in the fourth quarter to help the Raptors try to pull out the win. Coming out of the draft I read a lot about this kid being selfish but I have yet to see any of that while he’s been here in Toronto. He was willing to come off the bench early in the season despite being one of our two scorers, he made the switch from power forward to small forward to accommodate Chris Bosh and tonight he played through the flu. While playing through the flu Charlie was able to post 14 points, snagged 9 boards and had a huge block at the end of the game that helped keep Toronto in the game.

I love that watching Mike James move over from point guard to shooting guard last night. This isn’t something new because Mitchell’s done this throughout the season for short stretches but tonight this caught my ideas because it looked like Mitchell was trying to take James out of his role as a pass first point guard and tried to give him the green light to shoot first. Wait, I take that back. James has had the green light all season but with him moving to shooting guard he won’t have the same “guilt” or “remorse” for jacking up as many shots as he does. If James can make the transition to shooting guard despite his lack of size (6'2") then he could be a great asset to teams next season. However, if James continues to think he’s a point guard then whoever he plays for will be in trouble. For the short term I like this move for the Raptors because it gives Jose Calderon and Andre Barret more minutes. Last night Calderon looked lost on the court as his confidence appears to have been shattered. He was forcing up bad shots and is dribbling the ball way too much. If the Raptors can find a way to give the Spaniard expended minutes during the team’s last half dozen games then hopefully he will be able to end his rookie season on a positive note.

Chris Paul once again torched the Raptors. When both of these teams played last weekend Paul notched his first triple double of his career and last night he continued to impress me. Throughout the game he looked to initiate Byron Scott’s offense and looked to get his teammates the rock before he even thought about taking a shot. From what I’ve seen during the past week the only weakness in Paul’s game is his inability to consistently hit the outside shot. Once he works on that this summer that will continue to draw opposing defenses outside to guard him which will open up the paint for his big men like David West and PJ Brown. Paul finished the game with 16 points and 8 dimes.

A reoccurring problem for the Raptors this season is that teams can score at will against them in the paint. Tonight the Hornets outscored the Raptors 40-18 in the paint.


Sat 04/08/06, 5:01 am EST




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