Raptors 129 – Suns 78 – Box

So I guess it wasn’t all BS rhetoric coming out of the Raptors camp during the pre-season. Things like intense practices and commitment to defense were all being pushed down our throat in an effort to appease us after a mediocre offseason (it wasn’t a great offseason, admit it), and I wasn’t buying any of it. Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t read much into a pre-season game where your opponent played the night before; but what I saw from the players, and the brand of ball they are playing now…all I’m saying is that I can watch this team play ball this season, win or lose, and not pull my hair out because they will be trying.

This game was more about assessing what he has more than anything, with Triano fielding a starting crew of Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Reggie Evans and Andrea Bargnani. Reggie Evans’ being the lone WTF of the bunch. Triano has seven more games to get a sense of what he really has, and a rotation for the start of the season, so we can expect some interesting lineups over the next couple weeks.

I’m not going to get into a detailed recap of the entire game since I missed the entire 4th quarter, and this was a pre-season game, but there were a few interesting themes that developed:

Linas Kleiza’s star is shining
So that’s what it’s like to have a point forward who can create, facilitate and hit the open jumper in the corner. It’s not so much that I expect him to average 20pts (7-9 FG / 4-4 3FG / 2-2 FT) and 5rebs every-night, cause he wont. It’s just that the way he played, seemed sustainable. He didn’t over extend himself, played within his minutes, and knocked down good shots. Would have been nice to see him get his teammates more involved, but we’re one game into the pre-season. Looking forward to seeing more of him. He played exactly how the Kool-Aid drinking fans said he would, and you know what? While he isn’t the saviour everyone’s made him out to be, I’m all in.

Andrea Bargnani…sigh…
There were folks who said that Bargnani would step up and fill the offensive void that Bosh left. Not only did he not do that, he didn’t do much of anything other than grab 3 offensive rebounds; 1 less than all of last season. He seriously didn’t look interested in playing, and turned in a terrible effort. I’m not trying to rip him here, it is what it is. He will probably do 17-20 a night, and 6-8 boards, which is pretty good. However, when Triano says that Bargnani probably is the only one who has a guaranteed starting spot, there are expectations (from me) that come with it. Namely putting in a solid effort, which he didn’t. Something that Bargnani really misses is the space Bosh used to create for him. Going to be interesting to see him have to work to get himself open, then work to create his own shot.

Swarming Defense
If the Raptors hope to have any chance at winning games this season, it will be because of the defense, and NOT their offense. There will be games where they score 129 points, but this team isn’t as offensively gifted as they have been in the last couple seasons. Like last pre-season, the Raptors came out possessed, and actually maintained that pace for the whole game. Trapping in the half-court, full-court, out of bounds plays, inbounds, what have you; the guards/wings didn’t let up, and our bigs aggressively doubled the ball handler. Defensive rotations were another thing: Reggie Evans got hung out to dry a couple times when no one rotated out to cover his guy when he doubled on the perimeter, that pissed me off. Transition defense, early in the going was pretty rough, but even that picked up. Holding the Suns to 79 points on 37.8% shooting is impressive, regardless of the situation.

More of the same from Amir
15min 9pts (3-4 FG 3-4 FT) 6rebs (4OFF) 1blk…FIVE FOULS! So with Amir, it isn’t so much that he isn’t an effective player when he plays, it’s just that he doesn’t play as much as he should because he averages a foul every 6 minutes he’s on the court. There was a recent thread in the forums where the value of Amir’s contract was validated by the massive one Joakim Noah got recently (5yrs/$60mil or so). So while his productivity is off the charts (ESPN Insider required, but the stats are solid), we need to be reserved in the notion that his effectiveness is also the reason he is so prone to fouling. I really believe you can’t have one without the other, and we need to be ok with the fact that we paid a guy who can really only give us 19-23min every night, and pay him $35mil over the next 7 years for the privilege.

DeMar DeRozan needs to do more than score
He really does. He shot the ball well, attacked the paint, and put up 16pts (6-10 FG / 1-1 3FG / 3-3 FT), but otherwise contributed 2rebs 1ast 1stl. He’s been handed the keys, and needs to realize that there is more to this game than scoring. Weems on the other hand shot the ball too much, leading the team in attempts, but at least he gets after it on the boards and plays better defense. At the end of the day, they both compliment each other well, with no real drop off when you swap one out for the other, but they still need to raise both their games a bit more. For me, the honeymoon is over with DeRozan (more so than Weems since we passed on Jennings for him) and I’m expecting more from him this season.

I missed the 4th quarter, but the Raptors were able to extend their lead, while producing a ridiculous boxscore that had them besting the Suns in every single statistical category except blocked shots. One thing to note: Joey Dorsey – where have you been all my life??? Let me temper myself by saying this is pre-season, but if he keeps this up (13pts 10rebs), it’s going to be very hard not to give him minutes that were supposed to go to Davis and Evans, especially with Davis injured and our boy shining in his place.

I’d like to thank the 55 or so folks who came by our live chat at 10pm for a pre-season game; you guys are seriously boss, and from what Arse says there was great vibe and great convo. Next up, we got the Celtics in Boston.

I’m on Twitter.

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