Game No. 1: Pacers 90, Raptors 88
In their 2012-13 home opener, the Toronto Raptors looked pretty good for most of the first 43 minutes and 29 seconds as they staked an 86-78 lead. The Pacers closed the game on a 12-2 run wrapped up by a George Hill floater with two seconds left, followed by an Andrea Bargnani airball at the buzzer. This would have been a much more depressing beginning to this season if it wasn’t so predictable.
1. The big news before this game was the announcement that the Raptors signed DeMar DeRozan to a four-year contract extension with a base amount of around $38 million, plus incentives. This news was met with a combination of sarcastic derision and outraged apoplexy on Twitter. For his part, DeRozan finished his first game of the season with 10 points on five-for-14 shooting, five rebounds, an assist and a block in 29 minutes while Paul George thoroughly outplayed him. I’m sure Joseph Casciaro will have some extensive commentary on this contract tomorrow, but my immediate reaction is that this move by Colangelo is ill-advised and yet depressingly unsurprising.
2. Jonas Valanciunas was reportedly extremely nervous going into his first regular season NBA game, but he acquitted himself very well in putting up 12 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes. As expected, he had some trouble guarding the massive Roy Hibbert but his activity around the hoop at both ends was impressive and it’s clear he’ll be a double-double threat every game that he can avoid early foul trouble. We’ve got ourselves an NBA basketball player, here.
3. Andrea Bargnani looked like an All-Star during his 11-point first quarter. He was agile, an active defender, and showed the skills that got Raptors fans excited during his legendary 13-game stretch from last season. Unfortunately, he finished with just 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting, three rebounds, three blocks and one assist in 34 minutes. In the spirit of fairness, I only harp on Bargnani’s rebounding these days when the Raptors get out-rebounded in a losing effort. The Pacers beat the Raptors on the boards 46-42 on this night.
4. 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.
5. Next time somebody tries to tell me that the NBA is “going small” and true big men are becoming extinct, I’ll point at Roy Hibbert. He finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five blocks, and it was often apparent that there was nobody on the Raptors roster who could handle him in the post. Let me go out on a particularly thick limb and predict that there will always be a place in the NBA for seven-foot-two guys with Hibbert’s skills.
6. I don’t know if Raptors coach Dwane Casey drew up the final play that resulted in a pathetic Bargnani airball, but any game-deciding Raptors offensive play where the ball doesn’t start in Lowry’s hands this season is almost certainly a mistake. If you’re inbounding the ball from the sidelines in the opponent’s end, there are just two seconds left in the game, and you’re down by two points, why would you give the ball to anybody else on this team?
Raptors Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry — 36 Mins, 21 Pts, 6-11 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 7-7 FT, 7 Reb, 8 Ast, 5 Stl
Pacers Player of the Game: Paul George — 35 Min, 14 Pts, 7-15 FG, 15 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Blk