It all came crumbling down as the Raptors found a way to give away their home opener, losing 90-88 to the Indiana Pacers in front of an energized crowd called a sellout of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night. DeRozan, whose new deal will kick in after this season, keeping him under contract in Toronto for five years, missed an easy layup with 22 seconds left, the last, best chance for the Raptors to steal a win after they went through an unimaginable 4:21 scoring drought to end the game.
It is foolish to suggest that because of Gary Bettman’s lockout, Toronto Maple Leafs fans are going to suddenly glom on to the Toronto Raptors, any more than the fact that Toronto Argonauts have managed to make the playoffs in the eight-team CFL – woohoo! – suggests Leafs fans will beat a path down to the Rogers Centre for a little three-down football.
His quiet voice confirmed it: He knew he was about to become a rich man, having just signed a four-year deal worth US$38-million, with incentives that could make it a richer pact. If that is not cause for celebration, little is. However, he could not give off any impression of happiness after a rather mood-ruining loss — one in which he missed a key layup down the stretch.
Well, good for Toronto, anyway. Nash’s first game with the Los Angeles Lakers strongly indicated that his coach should be fired, the misguided offence scrapped, and the whole grand experiment handed over to somebody who might know what the hell they’re doing. Like, say, someone who can coach Steve Nash.
From the rookie who earned a double-double in his NBA debut, to the team’s hardscrabble new point guard, to a jam-packed crowd at Air Canada Centre, the Raptors season-opener had all the makings of a positive vibe not felt by Toronto sports fans in quite a while. It had everything, that is, except a victory.
Kyle Lowry is the best player on this team, and it’s not even close. He’s an exciting catalyst on offense and he appears to be the best defensive point guard in franchise history. (Sorry, Alvin.) His numbers in his first official game as a Raptor were nothing short of awesome: 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting, eight assists, seven rebounds, five steals (!) and two turnovers.
With 1:21 left in the second quarter in Wednesday’s season opener against the Indiana Pacers, Raptors’ rookie Jonas Valanciunas trudged off the court after being replaced by veteran Aaron Gray, his head down, his body language decidedly downcast.
Kyle Lowry was sensational in his Toronto debut posting 21 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 steals. His play set the tone for his teammates who repeatedly looked to attack, even if they didn’t necessarily connect.
I suppose the only downside is that this might be the best Pacers’ game of the year. Oh, they will certainly play better. (Let’s hope so anyway. It’s gonna be a loooong season covering such slop otherwise.) But in terms of excitement, drama and good times, this was about as good as it gets on the opening night for most of the National Basketball Association.
Forty wins, plus or minus two or three, looks like a reach for this group. Getting past 30 seems a more reasonable goal. At least most eastern teams aren’t Indiana. The going gets a little easier in that respect. Then again,15 of the next 21 come on the road for the Raps. Coaxing more than seven or eights wins out of that schedule will be asking a lot based on what was delivered opening night.
David West absolutely destroyed Bargnani in the low-post, and his face-up game made Bargnani’s look like dog food. Bargnani, who has been battling the flu the past few days, really showed he was truly sick as his stamina down the stretch left much to be desired.
For a franchise that has not seen much success in the NBA over the past few seasons, the Toronto Raptors team and front office are a dedicated and determined bunch of people. Pacers edge Raptors 90-88 to spoil Toronto’s opener
“As the game got tighter I felt like I was getting loose,” West said. “The game slowed down a little bit and I was able to get some good looks.”
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