Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors are eager to change the culture of losing that has surrounded the franchise in recent years. A victory against one of the league’s powers would go a long way toward reaching that goal.
Bosh and the Raptors look to build on an impressive first win of the season when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
After a listless performance in a season-opening 102-92 loss at New Jersey on Wednesday, the Raptors rebounded with a strong showing in a 109-92 victory over Milwaukee in their home opener on Friday.
Bosh dominated in the win, scoring 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field with 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. The All-Star forward, limited to 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting against the Nets, made five of his first six shots and nearly had a double-double at halftime.
After blocking Ruben Patterson’s shot late in the fourth quarter, the usually laid-back Bosh showed his emotions by pumping his fist and getting in his teammates’ faces.
“It was because of the last game and I’m tired of losing,” Bosh said. “I don’t want to go back to the way things were the year before and previous years.”
Although it was only their first win of the season, the Raptors know they won’t have a repeat of 2005-06, when they started 0-9 before struggling to a disappointing 27-55 finish. Bosh is ready for better things this season after enduring a 93-153 record in his first three years in Toronto.
“It’s way different now. The attitude is different. We expect to be a good team. We expect to win,” said Bosh, who signed a four-year extension in July.
An active offseason left the Raptors with nine new players and a roster that includes a league-high six international players.
One of those new players is top overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani, who has six points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes in his first two NBA games.
“He is fine. He is a rookie. He is going to have good nights, he is going to have sub-par nights,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “It’s just part of the process of being a rookie in the NBA. All rookies go through it.”
While Bargnani hasn’t had much of an impact yet, fellow newcomer Anthony Parker has been very impressive thus far. Parker, who played for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv the past five years, has 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his first two NBA games since appearing in 16 contests for Orlando in 1999-2000.
The Spurs played well in their season-opening victory at Dallas on Thursday, but weren’t nearly as sharp in an 88-81 loss to visiting Cleveland on Friday.
San Antonio trailed by as many as 13 in the second half before Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combined for all 25 of the team’s fourth-quarter points to make it close down the stretch. The outcome may have been different if not for the Spurs’ dismal 18-for-34 performance from the free-throw line.
“I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me if free throws are a concern,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “(They have) always been an Achilles’ heel.”
Duncan finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Parker added 21, five boards and five assists.
“I’ve shot a million free throws over the summer,” said Duncan, who went 9-for-19 from the line Friday. “But it’s nothing like actually getting in a game, banging around and then having to calm yourself down.”
Few teams have as difficult an early season schedule as San Antonio, which opened on the road against the defending Western Conference champion Mavericks, faced LeBron James and the Cavaliers the next night at home, and now visits Toronto on Sunday afternoon and New York on Monday.
“It’s kind of tough,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “You’re a little rusty and your legs are not the same as January or February.”
The Spurs have won seven of the last eight overall meetings with the Raptors and are 7-3 all-time in Toronto. Parker had 32 points and 13 assists in San Antonio’s 125-118 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 8.