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The best time to write about the NBA is in-between lecture slides about microeconomics. Here are my dilapidated thoughts from last night’s preseason match between the New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors.

The last time these two teams squared off, it was the stuff of legends.

Quincy Acy, our bearded hero, having been freed from the shackles of backing-up the back-ups by the irrelevance of the whole situation, caught fire (not literally, although that beard is certainly a fire hazard). He strung together a litany of points against fearsome foes in Ike Diogu and Tour’e Murry to lead the Raptors to a nine-point victory over the New York Sweatpants. The whole sequence was scripted and immortalized by the effervescent words of Blake Murphy:

6:11 – enters game
5:43 – fouls Ike Diogu to announce his presence with authority
3:15 – after playing possum for 150 seconds, he steals the ball from Diogu, drives the lane and scores
2:50 – takes a charge because he doesn’t suffer fools like Udrih lightly
2:27 – Dwight Buycks feeds Acy, who takes it in for more #buckets
1:44 – Buycks finds Acy and WTF SERIOUSLY QUINCY A-THREE AKA QUINCY A3 with the triple BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE WHAT IS HAPPENING
1:00 – Metta World Peace, get that garbage outta here
0:20 – takes a charge because Diogu needed to know; hits a pair of free throws because fundamentals
0:14 – aforementioned lariat on Udrih
0:00 – strokes beard, mean mugs, reminds world of O.G. status

Unfortunately, yesterday’s game featured very little Acy magic to speak of. However, fans were treated to a double-overtime game that lasted over three hours in length, which is like getting extra anchovys on your pizza when you hate fish. I would do a recap of how it all went down, but the crunch time lineup was Buycks-Ross-Stone-Acy-Hansbrough. Need I go on? Ross hit a clutch three to send it to double overtime where Toronto’s bench crew put away the Knicks’ bench crew. The Raptors won 123-120 to improve to 5-1 in the preseason.

Anyway, here are four takeaways from yesterday’s match.

Trimmer Lowry Equals Better Lowry

It’s easy to forget, but Kyle Lowry looked awesome at the start of last season. Through his first 8 games as a Toronto Raptor, he averaged 18 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.4 steals in just under 32 minutes per game.

As the season wore on, Lowry was hampered by bouts of injury and ineffectiveness which really took the shine off the hardworking point guard. By the time he turned it back on towards the end of the season, most fans had stopped paying attention, and had soured on the idea of Kyle Lowry at the point.

This year, Lowry has come into camp in-shape, and he’s looked more like the Lowry at the start of last season, only minus 10 pounds or so. He’s noticeably quicker and it’s really paying off. Although his boxscore line didn’t look so great (11 points on 11 shots), he played smart defense and took good shots. He’s more aggressive in transition and he’s using his quickness to create separation, rather than crashing into defenders, which should theoretically reduce the likelihood of an injury (which is especially key considering the mess of point guards behind him). He had an impressive finish in the lane over Tyson Chandler, and he constantly attacked the basket or shot threes, which is ideal for a guy who isn’t all that great at shooting long jumpers. Hopefully he keeps this up in the regular season.

A Bad Night at the Office for Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas is only 21 years old. Despite all the praise we give him, and all the expectations we’ve pinned on him, Jonas is still very raw. The tools are all there – the size, the motor, the IQ, the touch around the basket – but he’s still a prospect. He’s going to have his ups and downs, and last night’s performance definitely fit the later.

Jonas looked lost defensively. Twice in the first quarter he lost track of Tyson Chandler which resulted in two baskets for the Knicks. In the second, he was tasked with guarding Bargnani in the post and he fouled him twice. He wasn’t much better at the offensive end of the floor, scoring six points on 2-7 shooting from the field and 2-4 from the line. He missed a number of gimmies at the rim that he normally makes. He has an extremely tough matchup Wednesdat night versus the Memphis Grizzlies and their vaunted front-line. Hopefully he bounces back.

Another Fantastic Game for Demar Derozan

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched or followed the Raptors preseason so far, but Demar Derozan and his newfound post-game has been lighting opponents “mup, mup, mup”. He finished the game with 21 points on 8-15 shooting from the floor, including sinking 2-6 from downtown.

Demar’s post game has been widely discussed in this forum, but it’s worth mentioning yet again. The post-game is allowing Demar to attract double-teams and it’s also allowing him to shoot closer to the basket, which is doing wonders for both himself and for his teammates. Here’s his shot chart from tonight’s game:

dd shot chart

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Demar’s, or if you want him shipped out of town at the first sight of a first-round draft pick, this is a promising development and if he continues to shoot the way he has this pre-season, Derozan will likely see an uptick in his efficiency numbers, which should translate into more wins for the Raptors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHrM9ccHb7Y

Potential Solution to the Bench Problem: Go Big?

The ineffectiveness of the bench has been the yang to Derozan’s ying this pre-season. They’ve looked wholly uninspiring, failing to score while also failing to defend very effectively. A lot of the struggles on offense comes down to the mess at point guard. There is an obvious lack of shot-creation with the second unit, and the triunmvirate of Buycks-Stone-Augustin is not cutting it.

However, Dwane Casey and his coaching staff might have stumbled onto something when they trotted out a “big” lineup of Stone-Ross-Fields-Acy-Hansbrough out there in the fourth quarter. The lineup looked good defensively and the offense was humming with Fields running acting as the point-forward and Ross knocking down three pointers. I doubt Casey benches Augustin and Buycks in favor of Stone, but the lineup looked decent, which is more than anyone can say about the other bench-exclusive units that have been showcased thus far.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Amir is attempting more threes this year. There was actually a pick + pop play run for him in the first quarter. If he can sink them, I’m a fan, but otherwise I don’t like the idea of Amir moving away from the basket
  • Speaking of jumpers, Tyson Chandler has a mid-range jumper now? He sunk two in tonight’s game and he was very confident in shooting them
  • Rudy Gay had another good game. He’s still prone to shooting ill-advised jumpers but he’s doing enough to compensate for that. He looked better than Melo did tonight.
  • I’m really pulling for Landry Fields to have a bounceback year. He’s been impressive. His movement on offense has created a lot of space and scoring chances for his teammates and he threw down an alley-oop. Wow.
  • Andrea Bargnani: 4-12. HAHAHAHAHA. No one man should have all that pasta.
  • Metta World Peace is a thug on the court. Off the court, he’s actually seems like a pretty nice guy.
  • The turnovers…weren’t a problem today! They only committed 15 over the span of 58 minutes!
  • The Basketball Jones is back! Their first podcast of the season: http://thestarters.nba.com/