Through the first half, it looked like the game was going to be Bargnani’s official coronation as the guy who would replace Chris Bosh as the focal point of their offence. Through 24 minutes, Bargnani was 7-for-13 from the field with 18 points. But the second-half drop-off resulted in just four more points the rest of the way.
Reggie Evans had a more consistent game, combining with teammates to make things tough on Stoudemire while pulling down a game-high 16 rebounds, four of them at the offensive end. He also pestered Stoudemire into nine turnovers.
Evans received the ultimate compliment from Stoudemire after the game when the Knicks forward offered thatm not only was he a better defender than Bosh, but also a better rebounder.
Evans, though, was more concerned with the result than any nice words coming from the other dressing room.
“We just have to find a way to get wins at the end, stay mentally tough at the end,” he said. “We did well throughout the game, but we just have to find a way to finish.”
The Raps had two chances in the final minute and a half to tie the game, but came up empty both times.
Linas Kleiza had an uncontested look with 33 seconds remaining but missed the mark.
After another stop at the defensive end, the Raps came back down with 11 seconds remaining and got the ball to Leandro Barbosa for a three, but the Knicks defended it well and the shot never found rim or backboard.
“We just couldn’t make some shots at the end. We made some bad decisions on the offensive end,” Kleiza said. “We have to play much better. I think that’s going to come. We have to figure each other out and put more trust into each other.”
The Raps took the ball to the hoop harder and more often than past editions tended to. The reliance on the three-point shot was less evident, the screens were firmer and nobody wearing white and red took too many plays off — which certainly was not the case a season ago.
The problem, once again, was that the defence was not up to snuff. Though it was nowhere near as bad as what was on display on a daily basis a year ago, there were still many warts that will have to be removed.
After having considerable success defending the three-point shot in the pre-season, the Raptors broke down, allowing far too many open looks to the Knicks.
Luckily for the Raptors, New York’s gunners weren’t in top form, misfiring at an ugly 7-for-24 (29%) clip. If in form, the Knicks would have had a sizable lead heading into the fourth quarter instead of just a two-point advantage.
Equally troubling was Toronto’s inability to protect the interior. The Knicks outscored the Raptors 52-40 in the paint and should have gone inside more often given their struggles from distance.
Forward Reggie Evans, excellent again with 16 rebounds, said the Raptors need to be more aggressive defensively and that will translate to easy buckets at the other end.
He also said there is a lot of work to be done to shore up the defence.
“We have to go back to the drawing board, see what we can improve,” he said. “Something’s going to give (defensively), you just don’t want to be consistent in where you’re getting hurt every time.”
Bargnani has to be better than he has ever been; for himself, for this team. Bargnani is now the face of the franchise and he acknowledged that when he took the microphone prior to the game to welcome fans.
He scored his team’s first seven points. It started with a rebound. He went to the low post, got fouled and hit from the line. There was the trademark shot from outside, then a drive down the lane for two more points.
The jury is still out on his defence, but he took a charge from Amare Stoudemire, creating the turnover. The game was not three minutes old. It might’ve been the best three minutes of his NBA career.
He looked uncomfortable at times under the basket; missed close-in shots — but at least he tried to go where before he never thought to tread.
“That’s what I have to do, I’ve got to be aggressive. Got to keep doing that,” Bargnani said afterwards.
This is the Bargnani that Toronto must see; it is the one general manager Bryan Colangelo promised Toronto it would see. It is also the one that is there one moment; gone the next — as in when he laid a third-quarter goose-egg on the scoresheet.
In the past there was always someone else at whom to point a finger. Now there is nobody else. Noted Triano: “We need a bit more out of individual guys.” Read into it what you want but Triano knows that on a team without a go-to guy, Bargnani has to be unambiguously that.
Every team that walks into the Air Canada Centre this year knows the Raptors’ fortunes are tied to Bargnani.
“Taking a wild stab at it, I’d say yes … he’s a big part of what they do,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said last night.
Coach Jay Triano walked into the post-game news conference looking a bit like the game itself. His tie was crooked and unkempt. His top button on his dress shirt was undone. His expression said more than any of his words. This was loss one for Triano and the Raptors: He expected more from his team. He had reason to expect a little more on what is traditionally a great night for the home team in the NBA.
They shot just 38.3% from the field, were outscored 21-9 from three-point line, and still were outrebounded by the Knicks in spite of Evans’ game-high 16 boards. The Raptors can’t possibly replace the 24 points Chris Bosh scored per night, but Evans will replace his 10 rebounds and maybe play a little tougher around the basket. But what Evans gives, he takes away by scoring no points. It means the 20 or so points, if they are to be found somewhere have to well distributed through the lineup.
Jarrett Jack did his job at point guard Wednesday: His backup Jose Calderon was ineffective and vulnerable.
Forward Linas Kleiza, the great discovery of the off-season, didn’t look like any great discovery. He missed open shots, travelled too often, had some moments, but not enough of them.
At times, the Raptors seemed bullied by Ronny Turiaf, of all people, which is hardly encouraging as this season begins.
What should concern the Raptorrs is that the Three Amigos, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson, did not look like ready to be prime time players. Many the opening night jitters got to them. Maybe they will be better Friday. Maybe.
But this was a discouraging night for the Raptors overall. They scrambled and they scrapped but in the end they didn’t have enough. Too often that may be the case in what is certain to be a very long season.
“Really, it’s all about being on TV at the end of the day,” Bosh said Tuesday, in case you missed it. “Seriously. A guy can average 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds), and nobody really cares. If you don’t see it (on U.S. national TV), then it doesn’t really happen.”
Bosh’s take would be comical if it wasn’t such a slap in the face to his former franchise and its loyal supporters. Nobody really cared about his work in Toronto, of course, except a tremendous Southern Ontario fan base that kept its faith in Bosh even after he failed, and failed again, and failed again, to deliver even the most rudimentary of post-season payoffs.
Nobody really cared except a franchise that paid Bosh a total of about $56 million (U.S.) in salary. Nobody really cared except a global audience that voted him to the starting lineup of an NBA All-Star Game. Nobody really cared except the U.S. Olympic team, which gave him a spot in its golden first five on the strength of his Toronto-based performance.
And as for the inference that the lack of interest from the U.S. network and cable programmers was strictly geographical, it, like most of what’s been coming out of Bosh’s mouth since he started hanging around LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — following Wade around “like a lapdog” is how Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando coach, saw one of those friendships this summer — is wrong-headed.
It’s almost too obvious to have to point out, but as one NBA insider noted, to earn a big-time TV billing, an all-star has to be a dynamic performer or a winner, and preferably both. Bosh was neither. He was the maximum-salary centrepiece who won precisely three career playoff games. And while playing in Canada doesn’t necessary help one’s cause in landing on U.S. TV — ratings don’t cross borders, after all — the Raptors found themselves there frequently when a dunk champ named Vince Carter was their best player and they actually won a playoff series.
The Raptor depth everyone keeps talking about?
It didn’t amount to much for long stretches Wednesday night and it’s going to have to be a staple for the Raptors to do anything of substance this season.
In the first half of the loss to the Knicks, the bench provided a measly six points, going a collective 3-for-11 as Toronto fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first half.
And while it was the bench that got them back in the game late in the third quarter — primarily Leandro Barbosa, who had a big quarter — they are going to need consistent production from the five guys coach Jay Triano is using in an extended rotation.
Amir Johnson, who can usually provide consistent energy and effort, was a non-factor, playing just 12 minutes while getting two points, four fouls and one rebound.
The Raptors have been built to go 10-deep with what they think is a capable backup at every position, but they didn’t get enough production in the opener.
38.3 per cent: Toronto is not going to win too many games shooting that percentage from the field and going a miserable 3-for-10 from three-point range isn’t going to help, either.
16: Rebounds for Evans, including four offensive boards in 33 minutes. It allowed the Raptors to get up six more field goal attempts than the Knicks and the telling stat that goes along with it is that Evans took only two shots all night.
41-33: Edge in bench scoring for the Knicks. “Our numbers are down … we need a little bit more out of everybody,” was how coach Triano put it.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano said he was happy with the team’s shot choices, but disappointed they didn’t sink more. (The Raptors shot 38 per cent from the floor compared to 42 per cent for the Knicks.)
“I liked the shots that we had. We had layups, probably five or six layups that we didn’t complete, and if those go in, we’re in a one point game. … Heck, we all want to win though, so there is no moral victory here.”
Starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who played an inspired game, attributed the team’s mistakes to “first game jitters.”
Everyone had praise for forward Reggie Evans, who finished with 16 rebounds and helped keep Stoudemire in check.
“Reggie, he’s got a nose for it. He knows how to go get it,” Triano said.
As a unit, the Raptors displayed the type of heart and scramble head coach Jay Triano says will be a prerequisite if they are to overcome dismal projections this season. Point guard Jarrett Jack played an inspired game, clenching his fists and screaming after driving to the hoop and bringing his team to within three points (96-93) in the final minute.
“We don’t have no star player,” Evans said before the game. “We just have to use that as motivation. [When people look down on us,] we can’t help but use that as a motivational tool.”
Too bad it didn’t translate into a win.
Despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, the Raptors cut the Knicks’ lead to four at the half.
While the reserves struggled in the first half, Leandro Barbosa provided the spark in the third quarter, contributing a key three-pointer as Toronto trailed by two heading into the fourth. New York pulled away in the final two minutes.
Triano finished 40-42 in his first full season running an NBA bench last season. But if the Raptors go 35-47 with a lineup of castoffs, underachievers and uncertain potential it will look like good coaching by default.
A playoff spot and a mark near .500 – not inconceivable in an Eastern Conference where the quality falls off a cliff after the top six teams are accounted for – and he’ll have the option on next year’s deal picked up and a couple of years tacked on to that.
Better yet his boss, Raptors president Bryan Colangelo – while loath to acknowledge the club has slipped backward during the past three years of his stewardship – is under no illusions.
“It’s a perfect kind of team for Jay,” Colangelo said. “He’s going to be evaluated on how the team comes together, on the progression of guy like Sonny Weems or DeMar DeRozan. He’s not going to be judged on wins and losses.”
By that standard, early returns on the first instalment of Triano’s 82-game job interview offered promise in the way a gritty comeback loss can for a team with rock-bottom expectations.
“I think it makes it easier,” he said before the game. “I’m having a lot of fun coaching these players because right now, they want, and are looking for, every bit of an edge they can have. They want to be good; they want to prove people wrong.”
As has been the case throughout the pre-season, Triano was just a little critical of Bargnani.
“He’s going to have to play 35 minutes a game, at least,” Triano said. “That’s what he’s played now. He needs to play more.
“He had the hot hand early. I’m not sure if he fatigued.”
The flaws are apparent, though. When Bargnani receded from the game, there was no one player that really forced the issue on offence with regularity.
And when Wilson Chandler, the Knicks utility player, got going in the fourth quarter, the Raptors offered no real answer. Amir Johnson, the foul magnet, had a brutal evening, and the Raptors have no other player with the right combination of agility and size to lock down Chandler, who finished with 22 points.
The low expectations would not warrant it — because of those, the crowd of 18,722 was not a sellout — but the Raptors seemed tense. Makes sense: they are young.
“You can go out there and play carefree,” Jack said before the game. “You don’t have to go out there and worry about hearing the questions, ‘Are you guys trying to get home court?’ We’re just trying to get better everyday. That’s the slogan that we live by. It may be cliché, but if you get better everyday, the little things you do to win games — diving on the floor, the talking to each other, the communication, the playing hard, the effort every night — that will put you into the position to get whatever you think is necessary.”
The Raptors seemed to have most of that Wednesday night. As could be the case many evenings this year, they just lacked the execution.
The Raptors don’t have a US$100-million man. They have Bargnani, who’s paid half that, and a bench that extends out onto the floor. They need everyone, or as close as they can get.
“These guys know if we play individually we have no chance,” Triano said. “Sometimes people fall in love with the superstars, and I think we’ve got such a variety of players that have such unique personalities, and a zest for the game, and going out and playing hard, that there’s a lot of people on this team that the fans and this city can associate with and grow to love because of the way that they play.”
That won’t mean national TV, or attention. That, like Raptors fans, will have to wait.
“It’s about winning,” Stoudemire said. “You win, you’re going to get on national TV. Simple. In Phoenix, we won — Western Conference finals three, four years, playoffs every year. We won. If you don’t win, nobody really wants to see you.”
Nobody outside Toronto will want to see this team for some time, and probably won’t. But things will happen here regardless. A tree can fall in the forest, and still make a sound. The sound just might not carry very far.
But this is the situation, and there’s no looking back. When it was over, somebody asked Jose Calderon if his team missed Chris Bosh. The usually gregarious Spanish point stared straight through the questioner and said “Who?” — cold as winter. When the question was repeated, Calderon simply said, “He’s in Miami. We just lost the game. That’s it.”
To close the first quarter, Turiaf corralled an offensive rebound in the paint, turned and lofted it off the backboard and in to give the Knicks took a 29-22 lead after one quarter. They shot 50 percent in the first period of the season and scored 20 points more than LeBron James’ Heat in their season’s opening frame.
The Knicks held Toronto to 39 percent shooting.
A 9-0 run to start the second quarter – with Felton running the show well – had the Knicks up 40-24 in the second quarter.
Stoudemire didn’t dominate the ball in the half as much as in preseason. Stoudemire finished with 10 points on just 7 shots in the half. He was 3 of 7, 4 of 4 from the line, hard to stop on the drive.
Fields, starting at shooting guard in his NBA debut, was a lot more poised than Danilo Gallinari, who shot 3 of 9 for 12 points.
. Raptors point guard Jarrett jack led the Toronto comeback with his speed (8 points, 4 assists) and the Knicks led 51-47 at the break.
Mozgov played just 4 minutes in the first half and picked up his third with 8:34 left in the third quarter on a infraction 20 feet from the basket. Then he picked up his fourth foul 7:08 left in the third when he ran over a Raptor on the way upcourt.
Here are the top 5 Raptors of all time…
5. Charles Oakley – Oak brought not only toughness to Toronto, but an expectation of professionalism. "Act like you’ve been here before". Oak’s D allowed the team to become better, and if you’re unsure of the impact he had – have a look at what happened to Toronto (and Vince) when he left.
4. Morris Peterson Jr. - Sharpshooter Mo Pete spent 7 seasons in Toronto – and he added depth and only Chris Bosh and Vince Carter scored more points as a Raptor.
3. Damon Lamon Stoudemire – The first franchise player for Toronto. Even tho’ he was only there for 3 seasons, Stoudemire was an impressive addition – he won Rookie of the Year, and put up some impressive numbers. 19 points, 9.3 assist, four rebounds, and 1.4 steals in his first season there.
2. Christopher Wesson Bosh – Before running out to be part of a threesome, Chris Bosh was The Man in Toronto. Year in, year out. Bosh worked his behind off to try and make the Raptors into a competitive unit… to no avail. He should have better luck now that he’s taken his talents to South Beach, but he’ll never be The Man.
1. Vincent Lamar Carter – At the end of the day, Vinsanity enjoyed more success at Toronto than Bosh, and it’s that simple. Tho’ neither left under terms that left any love for them at this franchise, Vince took them further, and took them more often than Bosh did. An amazing physical talent with almost unlimited potential, VC never quite hit the heights he should have.
The point guard debate is going to get ugly real quick. Triano decided to start Jarrett Jack over Jose Calderon tonight. (a carbon copy of the Ford/Calderon situation) The situation ranges from fans to coaching personnel alike; you should’ve heard how passionately the fans around me were advocating for Jack to play extended minutes. While little old me, shouted at the top of my lungs every time Jose was inserted into the game. Jose distributes the ball much better, but Jack is by far a better slasher and defensive player. (Jose did take a charge on Amar’e though!) A classic debate between playing the traditional point guard or the scoring point guard. I wouldn’t want to be Triano right now. However, I still wonder how much better this Raptor team would be if the Calderon for Boris Diaw/Tyson Chandler trade fell through. Did I mention Jose is my favourite Raptor yet?
The Knicks couldn’t have picked a better place to start the season if David Stern had said, go ahead, it’s your call.
With Chris Bosh playing in Miami, the Air Canada Centre is shaping up as the NBA’s next graveyard. If the cupboard isn’t bare, it’s pretty empty.
Good teams will come here this season and absolutely roll through the Raptors, as if they’re not even here. But the Knicks don’t fit that description. They’re hardly a team, and it showed in their season opener when they had to sweat out a 98-93 victory.
So it was a success. Just not a rousing one.
- The Raptors are a really ugly team. I’m not going to name names, but the Knicks should always be favored in this match-up on handsomeness alone.
- Clyde one-upped Mike Crispino’s "Linas Klee-ayza" from last week with some "Linas Klay-zer"s of his own.
- The Knicks blocked ten shots! 10! X! On purpose! With their hands!
Some individual performances of note:
- Reggie Evans did a great job frustrating Amar’e Stoudemire with his Reggie Evans-ness. He picked up Stoudemire early in the possession, granting him only outside possession and forcing him to put the ball on the floor. Those bouts of dribbling (as well as a handful of entry hospital passes) got Amar’e nine (9! IX!) turnovers. Stoudemire is much, much better when he’s either working off the ball or starting his drives from around the elbow, and he realized that in the late fourth. The Captain bucked and pushed his way into the paint, caught the ball, and went to work for three easy baskets and some trips to the line down the stretch. Not every defender will be as
dirtydogged as Evans is, but tonight was a good in exercise in beating the opponent down the floor and establishing position for Amar’e. As I said in preseason, it’s a really magical feeling to have someone who can just will his way to baskets in crunch time.
Bryan Colangelo cannot just let the $14.5 million trade exception he got in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade expire. Yes, it will save the team money and keep it far under the luxury tax, but letting it go will put the team in a bad spot competitively. I’m not saying spend it all, that’s reckless, especially with a new CBA coming in that will likely have a lower cap. It should be spent either on a solid player making up to $10 million a season – but no more – or it should be used to take on a player who is makign $5-$8 million for no longer than the next two seasons (including this one). That player would be one that is out of favour with his current team. He might be a guy who gives you nothing on the court, but by taking him you get a couple of first rounders in return. Those are valuable assets. The trick is finding a team that either is not very good and willing to trade a first to get rid of a problem (not likely), or to find a team that wants to get rid of a guy and already owns a first from a crappy team.
The Raptors President and GM joins Prime Time Sports to discuss his team’s new season.
Zack Cooper recaps the Toronto Raptors season opening loss to the New York Knicks.
In general, the Raptors offense sputtered at times and goes thru droughts, and that’s to be expected when you don’t have a go-to scorer like Bosh. I hope they give DeRozan a little more time in these situations, he will get to the line, something this team would need to do with Bosh in Miami. I think the team needs to force some turnovers, because they are not a very good half court team right now. The pressure defense that they showed in pre-season disappeared tonight. The Raptors scored a lot of their points when NY turn the ball over and couldn’t get their defense set.
In the end, the Raptors shoot less than 40% for the game against a NY team that’s known for the defense (though they did play hard on that end tonight), not a good omen for the rest of the season.
The Raptors were gifted with two home games to start the season and they play two teams (New York and Cleveland) that the Raptors, at least theoretically, can beat on any given night. They needed to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Raptors are going to be in tough most nights against pretty much everyone in the league. If they are going to win games and compete for a playoff spot then they will need to win games at home against lesser opponents. New York is much improved, fair enough, but the Raptors should have had this game.
Home cowd, opening night, beatable team. These are ingredients that should lead to victory.
If the Raptors are to have any success this season, home court advantage has to become a strength for this team.
Moving along the point guard debate is over. Jarrett Jack is your starting point guard and is playing like it. I will take 16 points 6 dimes and 3 steals from my starting point guard and be happy with that. Jose Calderon is not what he once was on offence and despite the odd attempt to be a good defender, he is just not. Full marks for taking one on the numbers and drawing a charge tonight though. His 2-8 shooting night with just 4 points and 7 assists is just not going to cut it. While the desire of fans to see him traded grows his play is heading south. No not to South Beach and not to anywhere else anytime soon. It is far to risky for another team to think Jose can suddenly bounce back and be what he once was. It is also not just us that notice he can’t defend. This is all without mentioning his contract that is far to high for a guy that is just no longer a starter in this league.
My one criticism of Triano, and I don’t usually like to criticize the coach, is that I think he took Evans out too early. Obviously for the last shot you probably don’t want him on the floor, but with about a minute left, Kleiza missed a three and the only Raptor near the rebound was Bargnani, who had a predictable 6 rebounds. It would have been nice to see Evans on the floor where he might be able to get an offensive rebound.
Overall, I think there were some bright spots and New York actually played better than I expected. What the Raptors missed was an All-Star they could give the ball to in the last few minutes. Unfortunately that guy is now playing in Miami…