Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paul Out Duels Bosh in a Battle of the Chris's

Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo witnessed a game of basketball Sunday afternoon played just the way he likes it.

It was fast paced with clean, crisp ball movement, lots of three-point shooting and perimeter play, and had a mix of an inside action as well.

It had that “European” style that the GM admires and it's that way he’s trying to get the Raptors to play.

Unfortunately for Colangelo though, it was the visiting New Orleans Hornets led by the irrepressible Chris Paul, who stole the show and out played Toronto 99-91.

The Raptors boss might feel as if Hornets head coach Byron Scott has stolen his idea. In Jay Triano’s first game as head coach of Toronto against the Utah Jazz, Colangelo stated on air that the Raptors were “still a perimeter team”.

Heading into Sunday's game, it was New Orleans who led the league in three-point accuracy at 41-percent, yet was only eleventh in tries at 18.5-per-game, but seventh in makes with 7.6-per-game.

You can add another 12-for-33 three-pointers to New Orleans stat sheet from today, six of them coming from reserve James Posey, who also had 10 rebounds.

There is no feeling more deflating than being beaten at your own game.

After a slow start to the season, the Hornets have now won eight of their last 10 games and improve to 13-7. Toronto had a two-game winning streak snapped and drops to 10-13.

Paul controls the tempo of a game like no other player in the NBA does. Not Kobe Bryant, not even LeBron James, which is a measure of just how good he is.

In their own right, of course Bryant and James are fantastically entertaining players to watch and much of their teams fate - on a nightly basis - is decided by them. However, there is so much more noise and bang to the way they play.

Every dunk is a thunderous one; every play has highlight reel potential.

It's like watching a heavy metal rock concert.

Paul plays a very different way. He's subtle but deadly effective, instead of being at a rock concert, watching him is more akin to listening to a saxophonist playing in New York’s Central Park on a warm Spring afternoon.

Don't look to the stats sheet to tell the full story of Paul’s dominance. There, you will only see the numerical impact Paul had on today’s game. Twelve points and twelve assists is a moderate return from an All-Star and Olympian.

What the box score won’t tell you is how Paul, after showing total trust in his team mates all day, decided he would drive the final dagger through the Raptors.

Toronto had closed to within five points 92-87 and still over two minutes remaining when Paul fearlessly dissected the lane and scored a lay up to stretch the Hornets lead back out to seven points.

It was a high-percentage play, from a high-percentage player. The type a team expects from its franchise player.

The Raptors franchise man, Bosh, clearly wasn’t paying attention to Paul. The man who he'd spent a lot of time in the summer with as they won Gold medals as team mates at the Beijing Olympics.

Rather than answer back by getting to the basket himself, Bosh launched a three-pointer. It clanked off the rim and Toronto’s fate was effectively sealed.

Just moments earlier, Paul, in total control had confidently confirmed his teams’ advantage. Bosh, unsure of himself, opted for hope and luck. Unsurprisingly, he came up short.

This game was decided on Paul’s watch.

The next possession Paul completely killed off the Raptors. He found Rasual Butler who drained his fourth three-pointer and the Hornets’ 12th.

It's no surprise that Paul’s team mates always seem to be ready. Even if they don’t know that they’re open, he lets them know that they are.

Back on November 27 after finishing practice for the day, a sweaty Chris Bosh told reporters that one of his goals for this season was to win the leagues Most Valuable Player award.

Bosh was playing at a high level and was posting career high numbers in scoring (27.6 points-per-game) and field goal percentage (55.1-percent). The Raptors were at the .500 mark with seven wins and seven losses.

From a statistical point of view, Bosh was posting MVP type numbers.

Since then however, Bosh has been very un-MVP like. Toronto has lost six of nine games and during that dip, Bosh has seen his numbers plunge. He is only averaging 19.6-points-per-game and shooting the ball at 46 percent over those nine games.

The Raptors have also lost their coach Sam Mitchell and after a strong start, Toronto once again finds itself in familiar, disappointing territory.

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