By Bruce Fuhr, TND Sports
Only in Vancouver, with hockey starved fans awaiting the puck to drop on the new NHL season Saturday, would a hockey game break out at a NBA preseason basketball game - with fights both on the court and in the stands.
On Captain Canada's home coming at the newly crowned Rogers Arena, the Toronto Raptors out-slugged, out-hussled and simply embarrassed the Phoenix Suns 127-78 in NBA exhibition play before a sellout crowd of, well, hungry hockey fans.
The game was the first test of the new-look Raptors.
No Chris Boch. He left T.O. for greener pastures in South Florida to play with King James and D-Wade.
Hedo Turkoglu? He was on the other team's bench. Good thing, he was booed every time the ball touched his hands by the Canuck . . . I mean Raptor fans.
This night belonged to the new-look Raptors, stealing the thunder of B.C. boy Steve Nash. Kid Canada was limited to nine points in just over two quarters of play.
Sparked by the all-round team play, and the 20-point performance of Lina Kleiza, the Raptors looked like mid-season form in their season-opening exhibition game.
Even the Vancouver Canucks players sitting in the front row had to be impressed with the knock-them-down-drag-em-out contest.
DeMar DeRozen added 16 points while Joey Dorsey had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
But while this game lacked strong basketball play, it did have more in the way of a hockey game.
Player after player made way to the locker room to patch up gashes to the face.
Suns' forward Grant Hill and Reggie Evans of the Raptors were both ejected after picking up two technical fouls in the span of two minutes early in the third quarter.
Suns center Robin Lopez, after requiring stitches in the second quarter, was quickly sent to the showers in the third period after picking up four fouls, and a technical.
Both teams experienced poor shooting performances so the bulk of the work was done in the trenches under the boards, with the Raptors winning out at both ends following a slow start offensively.
DeRosan and Dorsey both put the crowd on their feet with a pair of thunder jams in the face of Suns' defenders.
All in all this was a good night for Canada.
Fans got treated to some NBA entertainment.
The people in the seats got to salute the Canuck players when the left early to beat the traffic.
Except most fans came to watch Kid Canada, Victoria's Steve Nash and not Canada's new NBA basketball team from T.O.