Our opponents.

Alright Republic, welcome to our Live Blog of the first pre-season game of the 2012-13 Toronto Raptors season. Tonight at 7pm EST the Raptors play host to Real Madrid, a formidable international opponent from the Spanish ACB league. I’ll be updating the page every 5-10 minutes depending on game action, so be sure to refresh often and join in the conversation in the comments (unfortunately I have no idea how Cover It Live works).

The Raptoras will start Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani and Aaron Gray, while Kyle Lowry (strained abductor muscle, approximately one-two weeks) and Jonas Valanciunas (strained calf, day-to-day) will rest with minor injuries.

I’m unsure of Madrid’s starters, but their roster boasts several talented players including ex-NBA players Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez.

Updates with time stamps will begin below. Welcome to the 2012-13 season!

1st QUARTER
6:47PM EST – Stream is working at the moment (I don’t have NBA TV due to some odd packaging bundles out here in Vancouver). Fingers crossed it holds up.

7:00 – Oh yeah, here we go! Stream didn’t give out at 7 as I expected. Fernandez, Rodriguez, Reyes and Llull are names you may recognize tonight from international play or as former NBA-ers, as mentioned. Should be a good test for a Raptors squad without their PG and one of their key bigs. As an FYI, Memphis beat Madrid last night.

7:04 – Jose looks great in warmups and pre-game graphics. POINT GUARD CONTROVERSY!!!!

7:07 – Introduction video was nice, Wiz Khalifa’s Work hard Play Hard is the song for the video, which fits. Hard to tell the difference between reaction sizes but DeRozan’s sounded pretty strong, which would fit with what we heard from the intrasquad game in Halifax.

7:09 – Carroll, Llull, Fernandez, Mirotic, and Begic are the Madrid starters. Mirotic is Bulls property and dropped 14-and-7 against the Grizzlies last night.

7:11 – Raps win tip, Jose turns the ball over trying to dump it into Gray off a pick-and-roll, and it leads to a Mirotic bucket. Season doomed.

Nevermind. Fields totally answers with a two. #Swagg

7:13 – Devlin and Sherm are already making excuses for the Raps, down 7-2, in the sense that Madrid has already played. DeMar hits a pair to make it 7-4.

7:14 – Man Madrid looks ready, up 11-6 early. Leads to Sherm making more excuses (in Europe, every game means so much!). Bargs mercifully stops that train of thought with a hard drive getting him to the line. 11-8.

7:17 – First instance of my stream cutting out, leading to me clicking 400 ads for sexy girlfriends and video games and poker sites. As I return, Casey calls a timeout to spell the 14-8 start. Madrid is 6/7 from the floor, so hopefully heads are rolling.

7:20 – Bargs with two and the harm on a post-up out of the timeout. The timeout may not have helped as Bargs chases as Mirotic pump-fakes and blows by, but at least Gray knocks him on his ass and makes him earn it.

7:22 – My goodness. Bargs finds DeMar alone baseline and he inexplicably misses a layup. Mirotic has 6 with two blocks early, and Sherm and Devlin have now combined to make 11 excuses for the Raptors.

7:24 – Jose to Amir! I know, I know, Gray started, but Amir fits better with Bargs. I’ll digress eventually. Right after, Amir, at the elbow, finds Jose on the baseline cutting for an easy deuce.

7:25 – Madrid takes a timeout as the Raptors close it to 20-18 and Madrid is 2/7 since the Casey timeout. Bargs and DeMar each with 6 points on 2/5 shooting.

7:28 – Lucas, Ross, Kleiza, Davis, Johnson is the lineup now, so they’ve gone with a full second unit. Kleiza and Lucas can get for themselves but neither is a playmaker, and these other three need the set-ups so this could be ugly. Like that Ed Davis hook shot…yuck.

7:31 – T-Ross shows some nice vision finding Amir in transition, though he’s fouled. A few moments later, Amir cuts and receives a pass from Lucas for a reverse slam and the foul. Amir makes the freebite and the Raptors have a lead, 21-20.

7:34 – The second unit is putting their foot on the gas here and have Madrid reeling a bit. They haven’t scored in some time and the Raptors are getting to the line at a steady rate, with 14 attempts already, though they’re not hitting any of them.

7:36 – Lucas shows us his range with a three-ball and then Amir steals the ball and throws down a THUNDEROUS one-handed jam, making it a 17-2 Raptors run.

7:37 – In ice hockey, we always reference the “first fall of the season” which is the time when you inevitably lose your edge and fall in the first game of the year. Ross just had his, air-balling a long baseline two.

7:39 – End of 1st quarter with the Raptors on a 19-2 run, turning a 20-10 deficit into a 29-22 lead. After a 6/7 shooting start, Madrid has gone 3/16, while the Raptors also have more rebounds (18-12) and fewer turnovers (2-1). Solid back half of the quarter, there.


2nd QUARTER
7:42 – I hope everyone in Canada gave thanks for the return of basketball this weekend. As frustrating as the Raps can be, I am so very happy to have this game back.

7:44 – Amir has two fouls already, but it’s been in 8 minutes, so…y’kno, same story. But he’s played incredible and his entrance into the game coincided with the tide turning. a Statophile/Liston favorite, that guy.

7:46 – Ross and Dom McGuire get on the radar with a silky one-dribble jumper and a block, respectively. Ed Davis announces his presence with authority, as well, missing another bunny in close to go with his three missed free throws. This can’t continue.

7:47 – Lucas has range. Another big three ball, and even with Mirotic answering, it’s 34-26 Raptors.

7:49 – @ekoreen with the best tweet of all time – “Real Madrid player just checked in smoking cigarette, finishing off some whiskey. Weird move, Dontaye Draper.” And you wonder why he (the National Post Raptors guy) is my favorite of the local news brigade.

7:50 – Madrid moves the ball well but the Raptors are aggressively closing out on shooters and pressuring the non-Rodriguez players with the ball. Too many fouls (12) but Madrid is rushing a lot of their sets now. I’ll repeat here, though it’s unrelated at this moment – I like me some Dom McGuire.

7:53 – All of the starters but Fields (DMC instead) are back in with the game 36-33, and DeMar adds a deuce. Off a sideline inbounds, DeMar feeds Andrea on a post-up but he fades away instead of attacking and misses. He should be attacking everyone, but especially these guys. DeRozan with a nice lefty deuce off a steal to follow that.

7:56 – Bargs misfires again (2/7), Calderon misses at the rim, and DeMar can’t put-back the awkward rebound. Rudy Fernandez makes it 40-39 and the starters have let Madrid right back into it, forcing Casey to call a timeout.

8:00 – It’s the complete starting lineup back in now. Sloppy sloppy play on offense right now, and Madrid has stretched the lead to 4. Get the subs back in here! No wait…Fields misses off the dribble but Aaron Gray grabs the rebound, almost kills the entire shot clock building up power for a small hop, and gets the two.

8:04 – Got a bit sidetracked by some texts relating to the Raptors, including “Ed Davis has never made a bunny in his life.” He’s not wrong. Raptors are back up 46-45 with 2min to go in the half. Also got an “urgent” message about fantasy basketball. My friends are the best.

8:08 – The Raptors have done a nice job trapping the ballhandler since the early run, but there have been a few times where shooters were left VERY alone outside the three point line, Madrid just couldn’t find them. They’ll have to tighten up their spacing on double-teams against teams with better ball movement, I think (unless their traps are just devastating). T-Ross returns for DeMar with a minute to go and the Raps up by a point.

8:12 – At the half, the Raptors lead 50-48 after Mirotic misses a Ray Allen-like foul-line rebound jumper at the buzzer. DeMar leads the way with 12 and 5, Madrid is down to just 38% shooting, the Raptors are dominating the boards (31-23)…but still, just a 2-point lead as Madrid has far more FTs and a few more threes, while the Raps are shooting just 42%.

I’m glad I’m doing this, as it makes me realize I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to simultaneously note-taking and watching the game. Luckily, I have PVR for the first time this season, so as long as games aren’t on NBA TV (preseason only) I’ll be able to pause and go back to things.


3rd QUARTER
8:27 – Annnd here we go, started off with a Madrid bucket!

8:30 – Sorry all, a bit distracted from the end of the half until now, some big news from a friend over the half. I missed what took it to 55-52 Raptors, but Bargs sets a weak screen that creates a Jose air ball and then gets fouled after the Raptors take the ball right back. 10min to go in the 3rd, 55-52 Raptors, and I’m back full time. JOSE 3-ball…loose-butthole monocles!

Uh-oh! Jose is limping badly after that three ball, he’s holding his right ankle and limping pretty badly. Yikes. No replay yet but I’m assuming he came down on an ankle.

8:33 – According to Twitter, Jose has massive onions and is staying on the floor.

8:35 – Where is everyone tonight? Oh, it’s a glorified sparring match that wasn’t well-publicized and is on a Canadian holiday? No excuses, comment like champions.

Anybody else need a pretty big fantasy performance from Arian Foster tonight?

8:37 – Madrid in the penalty already and there are 9 minutes left in the quarter. So Bargnani, of course, pulls up a jumper from the free throw line and misses.

8:38 – The Real Landry Fields hits a three ball. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Would really like to see the Raptors go into attack mode here with Madrid in serious foul trouble.

8:39 – DeRozan heeds my advice and takes it to the rim but doesn’t finish. Jose with a big steal and then DeRozan misses his third layup of the game, getting fouled in the process this time. Gotta have those easy ones, guys. DeMar misses both and the team is 9/19 from the line now.

8:41 – Andrea goes to the hole now, getting to the line. Sherm is right that it’s what the team needs from Bargs. The jumpers are fine, especially from long range, but you’ve gotta know when the match-up is there to attack. Bargs splits the pair, and the team is a brutal 10/21 from the stripe, leading 63-59 with 6:34 to go.

8:43 – Double-A makes his first appearance, just as an FYI. Can’t say much about his chance for minutes that he’s the 12th man in an exhibition game with Lowry and Jonas both out.

8:45 – Reyes ties it up with his second bucket in a row. An Amir offensive board (he’s played great) leads to another Andrea missed jump-shot (4/14 overall). 65-65.

8:48 – We’ve got Lucas-Anderson-Kleiza-Bargnani-Davis, so you know, and Ed commits an off-ball offensive foul, Raptors turnover number 9 and Madrid free throw attempts #30 and 31, an absolutely ludicrous total. Madrid now leads 68-67.

8:50 – “Kleiza saves it…then throws it away!” is the most Kleiza sentence ever.

8:51 – @stackmack points out that Madrid has a ridiculous 18 assists on 20 field goals. Not quite as ridiculous as 31 free throw attempts in the 3rd quarter, but also pretty bad.

At least John Lucas came to play! He’s 3/5 for 8 points but the Raps still trail 71-69.

8:55 – This game is really not good basketball at this point, but I’m so thankful to have ball of any kind that I can’t really bring myself to complain. Double-A ties the game with a pair of freebies after being mauled.

8:56 – John Lucas with a very nice floater. He’s been impressive in his first Raptors action, although he has just a single rebound and assist in 12 minutes. Still, 10 points on 4/6 shooting. He could definitely hang in the back-up point guard role if need be.

9:00 – It’s 6pm where I am, by the way. West Coast time is going to be a serious adjustment this season. Going to love it for late games but the 4pm regular viewing could be pretty weird.

Lucas with a a deuce to give the Raptors the lead heading into the quarter break, giving him 12 points in 13 minutes. 75-73 Raptors.


4th QUARTER
9:05 – There is a lot to distract me from the game at this point…Texans/Jets, Yankees/Orioles, Arnold Schwarzenegger on WWE Raw. But here we are, and Double-A gets to the line once again to make it 80-75 Raptors. Bench continues to roll, while every starter has a negative plus-minus.

9:07 – Raptors seem a bit stale on offense right now with a lot of standing around. Defensively, Ed Davis gets hit with the Raptors TWENTY-EIGHTH!!! (28!!!) foul of the game, giving Madrid 42 free throw attempts. For context, NBA teams averaged less than 20 fouls per game last year against other NBA teams, but the Raptors have 28 in under 40 minutes against a European team.

9:09 – T-Ross makes it alll better with a silky three-point jump shot. When he’s set, that jumper is a thing of beauty. He takes a charge right after, as well.

9:13 – Ross with another triple. Give him 10 points on 4/6 and put the Raptors down for an 86-79 lead with 8 minutes to go. The Raptors have assisted on just over 50% of their field goals while Madrid has assisted on just shy of 100% of theirs.

9:15 – John Lucas is beasting right now, and you can give him 14 points on 6/8 shooting and some serious floor general points for his demeanor late in a sloppy and somewhat meaningless game.

9:16 – Double-A has looked rough out there, but he’s passed McGuire’s minutes total, at least. It sounds silly to comment on but that’s a potential battle for an active roster spot. Right on cue, Double-A gets his own rebound and lays it in, showing the hustle that got him back to The A in the first place.

9:18 – The teams trade offensive foul turnovers. Raptors lead 90-81 with 6 minutes to go. Per Eric Smith, there is a chant for Quincy Acy somewhere. I thought we’d see him, Chris Wright, and Jerel McNeal for sure, but this has been closer than expected.

Lead is now 11 after Mirotic, now 4/12 but looking like a potential future NBA player with 15-and-10, misses a three.

9:20 – If any of you are baseball fans, make sure you catch a clip of Ichiro scoring in the first inning of tonight’s game. He danced around the catcher like crazy to score a run.

If you’re a hockey fan, the Marlies won a pair of preseason games this weekend. No word on what Kadri did with the post-game spread.

If you’re a football fan, don’t you dare flip the channel to the Jets/Texans. No real football fan would dare watch the Jets this year.

For those of you basketball-only folk, the Raptors lead by 9 with 4 minutes to go.

9:24 – Raps by 11 now with under 3 minutes to go. We should probably get an appearance by the rest of the guys in uniform here. Nice effort by Madrid, albeit a very sloppy one, with Mirotic and Llull specifically impressing.

9:28 – According to ESPN’s boxscore, every single player in this game on both teams have positive plus-minus scores. Not sure how…that’s…possible. Oh well, preseason for the boxscore software, too, I suppose.

DeMar attacks and gets to the line once again, giving him 10 free throw attempts on the night. The Ross/DeRozan comparisons have already begun in the comments, but keep in mind that their offensive games are different. Ross’ jumper does look sweet, but DeMar earns his supper at the line. If he’s doing that, they can…nevermind, DeMar chucked up a super-long two as I wrote that.

9:30 – DeMar goes to the rim again. The very best thing we can ask for from Ross right now, as a rookie, is to push DeMar to play better, and if Ross can play like he did tonight, he’ll do just that.

9:30 – The teams trade turnovers at the 40-second mark, essentially ending any chance Madrid had of a comeback. Jose finds Davis on a pick-and-roll by threading the needle, but Davis is mauled by a pair of defenders and will go to the line. 100-92 before the free throws, with 19 seconds to go.

9:32 – Acy gets into the game with 19 seconds left, which is a bit of an insult, I suppose. It’s a 102-95 final.


POSTGAME
Raptors win 102-95, head here for the boxscore. It wasn’t pretty, but they shook off some early-game struggles to settle in, at least offensively and on the boards. Way too many fouls and turnovers, with terrible free throw shooting, but they showed that on any given night they’ll be able to get contributions from a good number of players. Ross, Lucas, Amir, and Jose all looked especially spry, and DeRozan did a nice job attacking, too. I’m sure Casey will have some tidying up to do between now and Wednesday’s tilt in Detroit.

Check back later on or in the morning for Arse’s post-game breakdown. We’ll likely have pre- and post-game coverage for the exhibition bouys on Wednesday and Friday against the Pistons as well. And of course…say it with me now…