The Thunder were running away with the ball game by the middle of the second quarter, and Kyle Lowry left the game with what looked like a pretty serious ankle injury. Not exactly a good night at the office for the Raptors.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
- First and foremost, a few words on Kyle Lowry’s injury.
I know I’m not the only one who honestly thought the season was in jeopardy while watching Lowry scream in agony and clutch his ankle, and when images of his turned ankle emerged, it only appeared worse. The worst part was that the injury was sustained on such a meaningless play, as Lowry turned his ankle on Serge Ibaka’s foot under the basket while the Raptors were running back on defence after scoring.
Fortunately (in the big picture, anyway), Lowry’s injury is being called a right ankle sprain right now, and while that can still spell trouble for him and the Raptors, it’s also a lot better than how bad it initially looked, and Dwane Casey did say during his halftime interview that he thinks Kyle will be alright.
If he’s not alright, I’m officially convinced that this city and this team are eternally cursed.
- Speaking of Lowry, while the Raptors had a decent start, they were never really able to get off and running because the Thunder did a great job of sticking tight to Lowry and not allowing the Raptors to get him the ball. When he did get the ball, he had very little room to operate.
- Andrea Bargnani came out of the gates agressive on the offensive end and on the glass, but his shot still wouldn’t fall, and as his offence struggled, his effort level slowly waned. In the end, Bargnani posted 16 points on an ugly 5-of-14 shooting while grabbing a “big” six boards in 25 minutes.
- Jonas Valanciunas had his best game since opening night, crashing the glass to keep balls alive and get himself some extra scoring opportunities, which he rode to an efficient 6-of-8 night from the field (6-of-6 from the free throw line) for an early career high of 18 points. While Valanciunas was largely able to make his presence felt inside, his most memorable moment from this game was easily this unfortunate finish.
Welcome to the NBA, kid.
- On another JV related note, has anyone else noticed that Valanciunas gets his hands on a ton of potential rebounds, but just seems to have a problem coralling the ball and sealing the deal? If he could secure even a few of those bobbled rebounding opportunities, it could make his totals appear even more impressive, though he did enter Tuesday night 25th in the NBA in rebound rate. Against the Thunder, Valanciunas grabbed six rebounds in over 31 minutes, but again, securing a few more of those bobbled rebounds could have had that number closer to double digits.
- Landry Fields continues to look lost on the offensive end. He’s bricking embarrassingly wide open jumpers (especially corner threes) and is managing to make layups look like basketball’s equivalent of rocket scienece. There was a play in the first half where Alan Anderson found Fields all alone under the basket, and instead of simply rising up and converting an easy layup, Landry attempted some odd sort of reverse that missed badly.
I don’t know if it’s the pressure of the contract or a new set of teammates or what, but I feel like this is one of those moments where a professional athlete needs to be told to just keep it simple.
- Like most of his teammates, DeMar DeRozan was virtually invisible tonight, finishing with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting in 27:34 of playing time. DeRozan just didn’t come out with the same fire he had brought in the last couple of games against Brooklyn and Minnesota, and especially struggled without Lowry on the floor.
- Oh hey, remember Joun Lucas III’s awesome and improbable shot making in the pre-season? Well he’s now 1-of-15 from the floor through four regular season games, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
- Nothing good can come of getting blown out and losing your best player and emotional leader in the same game, but if there’s one bright spot from having the game’s result written in stone early, it’s that Terrence Ross finally got to see some extended minutes. Ross was active on the defensive end and ran the floor well to finish with 10 points in less than 14 minutes of mostly garbage time.
- Finally, a quick word on the Thunder. While they obviously didn’t look any worse for wear against the Raptors, and while they’re still an incredibly impressive team that features the second best player on the planet and arguably another top-10 player, I hated the James Harden trade for them. OKC got decent value in return for Harden, but you know what they didn’t get? A player anywhere close to the skill level, value or impact of Harden himself, and anyone who thought Kevin Martin was close clearly hasn’t been paying attention for the last couple of years.
Sure, they might have saved some major luxury tax money down the road, and maybe Jeremy Lamb turns into a solid NBA scorer, but neither of those equates to having three legitimate top-20 players locked up in their prime. To me, OKC was still the clear cut Western Conference favourite before the trade, and have now fallen back into the same class as the Spurs and Lakers.
One thing I’d definitely keep an eye out for as the season progresses, though, is whether Sam Presti flips Kevin Martin’s expiring contract and draft picks for another star.
- Back to the Raptors, they’re in Dallas to take on the Dirk-less Mavericks on the back end of this back-to-back on Wednesday night, but don’t let the Nowitzki and Marion injuries fool you. Rick Carlisle is a fantastic coach, O.J. Mayo is playing well and the Mavs are still a veteran team that are going to be a tough out at home, especially if the Raptors are without Lowry, as I assume they will be.