Others may try to steal it, but the original is always the AltRaps edition……
Sunday’s pre-game atmosphere probably most closely resembled the Jan. 7, 2004 debut of LeBron James.
Though that one turned out to be a stinker of a game, won 75-69 by the Raptors, James scored 21 points, including two on a spectacular windmill dunk and added five assists.
Another memorable ACC debut was Golden State guard Stephen Curry’s April 4, 2010 masterpiece.
Familiar with the court, thanks to countless times spent on it while his father Dell was a Raptor, Curry went off for 29 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in a 113-112 win by Golden State.
“It felt like a big game tonight,” DeMar DeRozan said of Sunday’s sellout crowd.
“It means a lot, that’s a great thing,” said Ed Davis.
“Hopefully we can just keep this going and keep this arena filled.”
Griffin likes drawing a crowd, but it’s not something he thinks about or cares too much about.
“It’s exciting and humbling but at the same time, I have to realize that my main priority is first to get a win,” Griffin said.
“I’d rather play in front of three people and get a win than 20,000 and lose.”
led by the combination of Amir Johnson and Ed Davis, the Griffin Express never got out of the station, let alone off the floor with any degree of regularity and that as much as anything was the reason the Raptors came away with a 98-93 win.
It sounds odd to say a guy who finished with a team high 21 points and 15 rebounds was held in check but that’s what it felt like watching it and that’s the way the Raptors viewed it after the game.
Griffin didn’t see it that much differently.
“I got my numbers I guess,” Griffin said. “(But) they did a pretty big job. But at the same time we missed some easy shots and need to do a better job of distributing the ball.”
Front and centre getting the credit for keeping Griffin in check was the duo of Johnson and rookie Davis.
Johnson, still playing on a sprained ankle “that isn’t 100%” set the tone early harassing Griffin when he had the ball or denying him it when he didn’t. If Griffin had run off the court for a bathroom break, Johnson probably would have followed him, he was that focused on the soon-to-be rookie of the year.
Johnson said he had plenty of motivation from within his own locker room.
“Everybody in the locker room was saying you better not make the highlights,” Johnson said afterward. “I wasn’t worried. I thought he should worry about me dunking (on him). That was my attitude, but I wasn’t going to let the guy dunk on me since everyone else was hyping it up.”
Foul trouble cut into Johnson’s playing time early on. He passed the Griffin assignment on to Davis, who picked up right where the former left off.
Davis, like Johnson, said it was all about winning the game, but he also had his own personal motivation.
“It’s more like a challenge,” Davis said. “This is one of the teams that passed on me in the draft and then going against Blake, I take it personal. He’s a good player and he deserves the credit he gets but we beat him tonight.”
“If he did get his numbers or he didn’t, it didn’t matter,” Davis said. “We just wanted the W.”
There’s always been a quiet self-confidence to Ed Davis — a swagger that is not exactly cockiness but an edge that shows he’s quite comfortable with his basketball talents and relishes the chance to show them off.
And a sellout crowd that packed the Air Canada Centre on Sunday may have found out more about the rookie Raptors big man than they did the much-ballyhooed Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I think everything’s personal,” Davis said after the Raptors scored a 98-93 victory to snap a three-game losing streak. “If you’ve got an all-star you’re going against, I think it is personal.”
It’s never purely about man-against-man in any facet of NBA basketball —much of the game depends on teammates, opponents and matchups — but the intrigue in the Griffin-Davis matchup was real.
On one hand, you have the presumptive NBA rookie of the year in Griffin, a megastar in the YouTube world of immediate gratification and one of the most explosive young players in the game.
He’s quiet and reserved and a bit of an ‘aw, shucks’ kid who does things few other first-year players can do.
And then you have Davis, far less respected or talked about around the league, just another first-year kid trying to find his way.
He’s as unassuming as Griffin seems to be but there is a self-assuredness about him that belies his public persona.
While Griffin had a couple of dunks and a ho-hum double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds, Davis had a far greater impact on the game, with 13 points and a season-high 14 rebounds in a season-high 36 minutes.
Take away the odd Griffin dunk, and fans were left with a sloppy but close-fought game between two struggling squads. The Clippers went into Toronto with the second-worst road record in the Western Conference (4-19). Then again, they were also facing a team that has dropped 16 of its past 17 games – and 13 of 16 at home.
Hampered by nine turnovers each and scoring under 50 per cent from the floor, the teams were neck and neck by the close of the first half. Toronto pulled away in the third quarter, with Andrea Bargnani adding 18 of his 27 points.
Rookie raptor centre Ed Davis continued to excel off the bench, adding 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
It just seems as if the most eagerly-awaited return in Toronto sports is Phil Kessel’s scoring touch. Bah. A mere minor detail, compared to Chris Bosh’s return to Toronto on Wednesday. Call it anti-Valentine’s Day, because as much as Vince Carter quit on the Toronto Raptors and the city, at least Carter didn’t have access to social media to gloat about it. It’s up to the Raptors fan base to decide the validity of general manager Bryan Colangelo’s suggestions that Bosh was a different guy after the all-star break last season (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) but there should be no love at the Air Canada Centre for Bosh when he and the Miami Heat visit. And here’s hoping the Raptors don’t adopt the goofy, little brother approach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on LeBron James’s return. If they want to build their own identity, throwing CB4 around a bit would be a start.
The Air Canada Centre was sold out for the first time since Jan. 2, and the arena had a very distinct buzz, at least early in the evening. That buzz does not materialize often. It was there for Griffin, the soon-to-be rookie of the year.
All Griffin had to do was make two purposeful attempts at the rim — he did not get close to the basket — and the oohs and ahhs were audible. When Amir Johnson swatted a driving layup attempt from the hyper-athletic forward, the building erupted in a way it has not since Kobe Bryant was in town in December.
Griffin had two dunks in the first quarter, but it was his slam off of an Andrea Bargnani turnover seven minutes into the quarter was what the crowd was waiting for. Point guard Baron Davis threw an alley-oop pass to the trailing Griffin, who finished with authority, his eyes near the rim. Sonny Weems learned an important lesson about challenging Griffin jams.
What do you rate that dunk out of 10, Raptors swingman and noted dunker DeMar DeRozan? “Eleven.”
It was not a vintage Griffin performance, though. Griffin is averaging almost 23 points and 13 rebounds per game, but he seemed easily taken out of the contest when calls did not go his way on Sunday. He still put up 21 points and 15 rebounds, but he was arguably the second-best rookie on the floor. Toronto’s Ed Davis was excellent, with 13 points and 14 rebounds, plus a block of Griffin.
For Toronto, Davis got his in 36 minutes off the bench, which came as a result of five Amir Johnson fouls in 14 minutes. Sure, Davis’ weren’t and surely will never come with the flash of his rookie counterpart, but he did it very efficiently tonight, making 6-of-8 shots and grabbing six of his 14 boards on the offensive end. Andrea Bargnani paced the Raptors with 27 points, DeMar DeRozan had 17 and seven rebounds and Jose Calderon had 10 points and 11 assists.
Not really a convincing win against a team that was without it’s top scorer (Eric Gordon) and coming off a loss to arguably the worst team in NBA history, but a win nonetheless. It’s just Toronto’s second and 18 games and bumps the season mark to a 15-40, which means only two wins in the final 27 games are necessary to avoid the worst season in franchise history. Then again, the way the Raptors have played the past couple months, 2-25 is no sure thing. Next up is the dinosaur himself, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
- Both teams made some bad turnovers, especially in the 2nd quarter, where it’s almost comical. Instead of making the simple plays, both teams are trying to make the spectecular ones. It’s sort of expected with two really young teams playing.
- There is no untouchable on a 15 win team like the Raptors, but I think Ed Davis is the closet to being one. No, I haven’t changed my mine about his potential, but he is just a very solid player. Some one who can defend and rebound isn’t easy to find. Add to the fact, that he is very good at being at the right place and the right time and finish his shots. He defended Blake Griffin as well as anyone can ask for, given Blake is so much stronger than Davis. Davis will be a starter for a good NBA team, let’s hope it’s the Toronto Raptors.
- Andrea Bargnani made some tough shots late in the game, very clutch of him. See I do say nice things about him. He made an unbelievable banker shots and got foul in the process. DeAndree Jordan was shaking his head in disbelief.
- If the Raptors are serious in keeping DeRozan, then they have to find someone who can compliment him. I don’t think Sonny is that player; they need someone who can shoot 3 and play defense. A guy like Affalo would be good, but Sonny and DeRozan just doesn’t mesh well on the court.
As I said, the teams were remarkably well matched tonight. They each turned the ball over 13 times, scoring similar numbers of points off turnovers. They each had 20 fast break points. The Clippers had 46 points in the paint to Toronto’s 44. The Raptors shot a little better from the field, but the game was essentially decided by the fact that the Raptors got five more shots, owing primarily to five extra offensive rebounds, 14 overall.
The sequence of the game came in the fourth quarter just after the four minute mark. After the Clippers had gotten within two on a Griffin offensive rebound and dunk, Andrea Bargnani faked DeAndre Jordan into the air, drew a foul and somehow also got got a 20-footer to go in off the glass. On the next Clippers possession, Jordan missed a dunk as he was being fouled and made one of two free throws. After two more Bargnani free throws, Bledsoe missed a layup as he was being fouled and made one of two free throws. In the course of 80 seconds, Bargnani had converted an extremely unlikely three point play, while the Clippers had managed just two points on two golden three point opportunities. The lead stood at five, and the Clippers would get no closer the rest of the way.
The points in the paint number for the game is quite telling. The Clippers should pretty much never get beaten in the paint, and in fact should dominate the category. To allow the Raptors, with no inside players to speak of, to score 44 points in the paint and essentially break even on inside scoring is a problem. DeAndre Jordan, who had 19 blocked shots in three games back in early January, has blocked four shots total in the last five games.