The Raptors were tested by a talented Real Madrid team in their pre-season opener, but Toronto’s depth was the difference down the stretch.
I’m not going to do formal “thoughts on the game” posts for pre-season games (we’ll save those for the regular season), but if I see the game, I’ll still post some observations here.
So what did I see on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre?
- It’s far too early to declare any player “back” from a tough season last year, but I saw everything I wanted to see from Amir Johnson in our first taste of Raptors basketball this season. He seemed to be everywhere on the court, was running the floor well, and was bringing the admirable hustle on every play we had come to expect from him in his first two seasons as a Raptor. This steal and dunk was the perfect representation of Johnson’s performance.
- It wasn’t for lack of effort, but Ed Davis didn’t look like a much different player than the one we saw last season. Sure, he grabbed 10 rebounds in just over 18 minutes of action, but the improved shot and overall offence wasn’t on display, as Davis went 0/2 from the field and 3/6 from the free throw line. Hopefully this was a mere bump in the road in what will be an improved season from Ed. I did like how the Raptors’ defence looked with he and Amir on the floor together, though.
- DeMar DeRozan looked like the more aggressive player Dwane Casey had told us about, getting to the line nine times and putting up an impressive 18 points, six rebounds and three steals in about 25 minutes of action. The steals were a nice reward for DeRozan, who was active and attentive on the defensive end.
- The point guard depth is on display already. With Kyle Lowry resting a strained adductor muscle, Jose Calderon was his usual dependable self (though he was getting torched by Madrid’s quicker guards), while John Lucas III provided instant offence off of the bench (16 points on 10 shots in 20 minutes) and some pesky defence when called upon. If Lowry can get 100 per cent healthy by opening night, the Raps should head into the season with arguably the deepest rotation in the league at the point.
- Jonas Valanciunas was in a track suit on the bench, but he did take part in the pre-game and half time layup lines, moving around seemingly normally and even throwing down a few dunks. That has to be a good sign, right?
- Terrence Ross’ shot looks as smooth as advertised in person, and while 4/8 shooting may not jump off the page, he did knock down two of his three three-point attempts and scored a very respectable 10 points in 22 minutes.
- There were a ton of fouls in this game, but both teams were shaky from the free throw line, combining to shoot just 63 per cent (46/73). The Raptors, specifically, were inept from the stripe, converting only 17 of 29 attempts. It was ugly to watch at times, but I’m not too concerned about it.
- We can’t take very much from this game, but if there’s one thing I kept harping on, it was the vastly improved depth on this team compared to last season. If the team stays healthy, Dwane Casey is going to have to make some tough rotation related decisions, and that’s a good thing.
- Lastly, this Real Madrid team seems pretty stacked for a non-NBA squad. Mirotic, Fernandez, Rodriguez, Llull and Pocius are all quality players that would probably be able to find minutes somewhere in the Association. By no means would I expect Madrid to be a competitive NBA squad, but I also think they’re at least as talented as the Bobcats. And that’s not meant as a joke, I actually think they might be a better basketball team than Charlotte.