Raptors 98, Clippers 73 – Box

It’s just one game.

But what a debut. Oh my, what a debut.

The buzz around the team last night and at the stadium was at this season’s highest, and whether or not you agree philosophically with the acquisition of Rudy Gay for Jose Calderon and Ed Davis, you have to admit it was fun for the night.

Personally, I’ve moved on. The trade is done, and Gay is now a core piece of the franchise. Last night, that certainly looked like a good thing. From the opening moments of his tenure, things looked exciting. Below is his play log for his first few minutes as a Raptor:

5:09 – Enters game
3:54 – Defensive rebound
3:42 – Misses 21-footer
3:19 – Draws shooting foul, splits pair
2:56 – Alley-oop dunk from DeRozan
2:21 – Air ball three-point attempt
1:07 – 17-footer off the dribble falls (DeRozan got an undeserved assist)
0:48 – Alley-oop from DeRozan, house comes down

Of course, in those five minutes we kind of saw the bad with Gay, as he missed a three and a long two, but we also saw the good in the shot creation, dunking, and ability to get to the line.

If you didn’t see the highlights of his 20-point debut yet, “dorell15” put them together on YouTube, which I’ve embedded below. 20 points on 16 field goal attempts isn’t hyper-efficient, but considering he hadn’t, you know, practiced with the team yet, it’s pretty damn impressive.

But Gay actually wasn’t even the most impressive Raptor on the night. Maybe not even the most impressive wing, as DeRozan overcame some poor shot selection to score 19 points. It wasn’t awful shot selection, but when basically all your makes are at the rim and all your misses are from mid-range, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to optimize those shots. He added seven dimes, which is becoming a really nice theme for him of late, and he also played some great defense on Jamal Crawford, who finished five-of-17.

The team as a whole actually played great defense, limiting the Clippers to a season-low 73 points on his 34.7% shooting. It was a team effort, for sure, but a lot of the credit belongs to DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, who struggled to score but distributed well and did a good job staying in front of Eric Bledsoe, and Amir Johnson, who gets an A+++ from me for his performance last night.

Johnson was battling the flu but gutted it out for one of his best games as a pro, posting 19-and-16, the latter of which tied a career high. Johnson also frustrated Blake Griffin, and despite Griffin getting 12 free throw attempts I believe it was a non-Johnson defender with the foul in every instance. One game after firing up way too many mid-range shots, Johnson got back to doing what he does best and putting shots up at the rim.

John Lucas had another good game, hitting five-of-seven from long range and pouring in 17 points in just 19 minutes. THIS is the John Lucas the team needs as it’s back-up point guard, but unfortunately it hasn’t been the Lucas they’ve gotten too often.

Landry Fields finally hit a three, too, if you care. And Terrence Ross did this, per “kietasss”:

I’d say that was a great way to end a great game, but of course Tuff Juice Punk Bitch Juice had to end it like this:

I would have been happy with a one-game Jonas Valanciunas suspension to see a hard foul there. That’s bush league, son. Valanciunas, by the way, registered three boards, five fouls and two turnovers in his 13-minute return, but luckily it didn’t hurt. Hopefully as he gets his legs back under him he’ll return to early-season Jonas.

One final area I want to highlight is some line-ups the Raptors trotted out. Of course, it’s a one-game sample, and I haven’t even mentioned yet that Chris Paul didn’t play. You know, the third best player in the NBA, Chris Paul? That guy sat out, so that certainly helped.

Anyway, even in the small sample, a few notes on the line-up combinations Dwane Casey rolled out:

*The most used lineup was the Lowry-DeRozan-Fields-Johnson-Gray starting unit, deployed for 13 minutes with a Net Rating of 27.9.
*”Small” line-ups, the oens I was most excited to see and for these purposes are defined as any with Gay at the four, were deployed for 17 minutes with a weighted Net Rating of 11.6.
*The best line-up was the Lowry-Lucas-DeRozan-Gay-Johnson line-up, deployed for three minutes with a Net Rating of 120.9.

Again, all tiny samples, and the line-up I’m most interested in seeing play for extended time is the Lowry-DeRozan-Ross-Gay-Johnson/Valanciunas look, which got just two minutes and was neutral on the floor. I’m really excited to see this line-up in extended play, as I mentioned on the podcast this week, as I feel it could be a dynamic unit at both ends, not to mention in transition.

One final note: You guys KILLED it with those Rapid Reacts last night. Really awesome job stepping up for the RR team and getting your opinions out there. It was a fun experiment and we’ll try to roll it out again in the future or find some way to crowd-source “average” grades or something like that. Great job, and thanks for the awesome response.

Enjoy your Saturdays folks, and be sure to check the highlights or replay of this game if you didn’t catch it, as it was a lot of fun. The chances of Sunday being as fun, when the Raptors host the Heat, are probably not as strong.

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