College of Sports Media Game of the Night:
The last time the Raptors battled King James and his Mighty Cavaliers was the first game of the season for Toronto when they pulled out a 101-91 win at the ACC. Cleveland was fresh off their opening night loss to the Boston Celtics and the Shaquille O’Neal experiment was still in its infant stages. Fast forward to today and the situation is somewhat different. The James Gang has figured itself out and vaulted into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ve won seven of their last ten games and are the fourth best defensive team in the league. James continues to lead his team in scoring (29.6 per game – #2 in the league), but this season he’s getting even better at getting his team involved. James is averaging a career best 7.7 assists. Since a pretty good start the Raptors dug themselves a deep hole in the first half of their season. They struggled through losing streaks and defensive breakdowns, dropping well below the .500 mark. Players were getting frustrated and many analyst wonder whether Bryan Colangelo did the right thing by bringing in nine new faces in the off season. Like the Cavs, the Raps have figured out where each player fits in their scheme and have turned the corner and what looked to be a disastrous season. They too have won seven of their last ten and on Sunday they beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-88 to hit the midway point one game above .500. Chris Bosh has shouldered the offensive load for most of the season, but Andrea Bargnani seems ready to help with the lifting. Bargnani has scored 20 plus points in four of his last five games and on Sunday he outplayed the man he’s most compared to Dirk Nowitzki. (NOTE: If you haven’t seen the play where Bargnani leaves Nowitzki short-less check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WpGECnscKU and fast forward until the 1:45 mark of the vid.) Tonight’s game for the Raps will serve as a perfect indicator on just how far they’ve come and maybe how far they still need to go to compete against the NBA’s elite.