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.

Comments (5)

  1. I was at the match and would not write it better. Just get rid of Kleiza and Ed Davis will probably never be top player but he is still young prospect. Trade Calderon and Kleiza for top power forward who can play defense if possible. I love Jonas from Europe but his problem is defense so far. Amir is beast but as backup PF. Backcourt depth is too luxurious at the moment. We need SF and PF.

    Lowry (Lucas)
    Derozan (Ross)
    play Fields as SF
    Top star PF (Amir Johnson)
    Bargnani (Valenciunas, Gray)

  2. That injury to Lowry doesn’t sound good, could be something that can linger into the season.

  3. I guess Lowry will have to suffer playing a season behind another point guard. It does not sound as Ed Davis will get any better, but it is still early. he did have 10 boards in less than 20 minutes and that’s nothing to sniff about. From reviewing this game, the Raptors certainly have more firepower than they ever did last season. perhaps they will outperform the expectations of many.

  4. Ross looked great. You can see his court awareness already on both offense and defense. He knows where to be on the court.

    I’d trade Ed for the same type of pick James Johnson got (in the 30s) if someone offered, right now. He’s an athleticism only player, except while a decent athlete, he’s not a freak or anything, especially with a mediocre motor. I see his upside as good backup big man. Right now he looks like a bad backup big man, like our version of Cole Aldrich

  5. I’ll excuse some of the easy bunnies that DeMar and Ed missed, the blown free throws and foul-happy D (Lowry’s inclusion into the starting lineup should help with that last one).

    What scares me is how lost Kleiza and Bargnani look on the offense while camped out at the 3pt line. I was hoping for a confident, renewed Linas after a good showing at the Olympics, but during last night’s game, he looked unsure of what he’s supposed to be doing, and at times even impeded the flow of the offense. On a similar note, Bargs seemed to settle for way too many jumpers. Maybe he feels like his spot in the starting lineup is secure, so he doesn’t have to try, but it really annoyed me to see Dominic frickin’ McGuire have to tell Bargnani that he should be posting up on a guy he could take.

    I was very impressed by Ross (shades of Mo Pete), cautiously optimistic about Lucas (as long as he doesn’t Mike James it in the regular season), and pumped about Jose and Amir coming off the bench abusing other teams with their P&R.

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