Raptors 101 Cavaliers 91
TORONTO — Jay Triano pulled Chris Bosh to the side as the two walked off the court Wednesday and told him not to revel in the Raptors’ victory too much.
According to Triano, there will be plenty more wins to celebrate this season.
“I told him,‘This is what’s expected, there is no time to celebrate, this is what’s expected now. Let’s build,”’ the Raptors coach said.
Andrea Bargnani scored 28 points as the new-look Raptors opened the regular season with a 101-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bosh added 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Hedo Turkoglu finished with 12 points, Marco Belinelli added 10 and Jose Calderon finished with 11 assists to go with five points for Toronto (1-0).
“I want to hear that from everybody,” Bosh said of Triano’s instructions. “Last year we started off 3-and-0 and you see how the end result was. We lose a basketball game, it’s cool, we lose, it’s cool, let’s play the next one. That’s what it’s about.”
LeBron James topped the Cavs (0-2) with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 boards, marking the 25th triple-double of his career. Mo Williams added 16 points, while former Raptor Anthony Parker and off-season acquisition Shaquille O’Neal finished with 12 points apiece.
In a season of new beginnings, Toronto couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Raptors’ 15th NBA season tipped off with team introductions to a stirring live performance from Toronto Philharmonia at centre court, and then the game and the players lived up to the hype.
The game marked the first real test of a team that has nine new faces on its roster this season, rebuilt in the off-season after winning just 33 games last season. But it was the Cavs who looked discombobulated for much of the night in front of a capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre.
On a night Raptors fans applauded their team with standing ovations at nearly every timeout, Toronto led by as much as 21 points in the first half against the Cavs, Eastern Conference finalists and winners of all three meetings against the Raptors last season.
“The crowd is a tremendous factor in games, if we’re bringing it and they’re loud, it’s going to be a very tough place to play,” Bosh said.
The Cavs, who had opened their season a night earlier with a 95-89 home loss to the Boston Celtics, drained five three-pointers in the third to tie the game 69-69 with 2:22 left in the quarter. The Raptors responded with a 9-2 run to take a 78-71 lead into the fourth.
“It’s an adjustment period for all of us,” James said. “We’re bringing in a whole new offensive system with Shaq coming into the lineup and other guys. We’ve got a couple of other players that we didn’t have last year so it’s still an adjustment period for us.”
The Raptors put as much as 15 points on the Cavs in a thrilling fourth quarter, but James cut Toronto’s lead to six with four straight points in the span of a few heated seconds — Bosh was called for a blocking foul on James that had both the Raptors forward and Triano incensed.
James drained one free throw and promptly sank a three on the next possession with 1:37 left, but a basket and free throw by Calderon sealed the win for Toronto.
Bargnani, who signed a US$50 million, five-year extension with the Raptors in the off-season, played with the confidence he showed at the tail-end of last season, scoring from all over the floor, including a couple of big dunks and one crowd-pleasing drive to the basket after ducking under the outstretched hand of James.
“I was always saying if Andrea gets going, if he’s scoring the basketball a lot, then we’re going to be tough to beat,” Bosh said.
Calderon echoed Bosh’s sentiments.
“I think there are not too many guys who are seven-footers who can do the things he can do, maybe (Dirk) Nowitzki is the only one,” Calderon said. “I think Andrea can be even better on the defensive end. That’s the way he finished the season last year and hopefully he can continue like that. If he can play like that, he’ll be one of the best this season for sure.”
On the defensive end of the floor, Bargnani had the unenviable job of guarding Shaq.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. . . (Bargnani) didn’t back down at all,” said Triano, who appeared in his first regular-season game as full-time head coach after carrying the interim tag last year.
The Raptors shot 45 per cent on the night and held the Cavs to just 35 per cent shooting.
“That’s what we’ve been working on, that’s all we’ve been talking about, defence, defence, defence,” Bosh said.
Bargnani scored on a driving dunk just 15 seconds into the game and didn’t slow down, finishing with 13 points in the first to help the Raptors to an 11-point lead midway through the quarter. Toronto took a 27-22 advantage into the second.
Bargnani’s Italian teammate Belinelli took over, scoring 10 points as the Raptors stretched their lead to 21 points just under a minute before halftime. Toronto took a 57-39 lead into the dressing room at halftime.
The Cavs tied the game with 2:22 left on a pair of free throws from James.
NOTES: The Raptors were missing Reggie Evans (ankle) and Sonny Weems (foot). … Calderon was honoured before the game for his NBA record 98.1 per cent free throw shooting last season. … Parker received a standing ovation during introductions. … Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke had a courtside seat. … The Raptors are in Memphis on Friday, then return home to host Vince Carter and the Orlando Magic on Sunday. … Bosh made his sixth consecutive opening-night start, second in franchise history behind Carter (seven). … Rookie Demar DeRozan joined Damon Stoudamire and Joey Graham as first-round draft picks to start on opening night. DeRozan finished with eight points and five rebounds in 23 minutes.