On an average night, Terrence Ross hitting a buzzer-beating three against the Knicks to push the game into double-overtime would have sent me into an euphoric frenzy, but when we’re talking about Game No. 6 of the pre-season, it’s hard to be emotionally invested.
Having said that, a 58-minute NBA game (Three-plus hours of real time) did take place at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night, and while it may not have counted for anything, I still have plenty of thoughts…
- Ross was the late game star for the Raptors and finished with a hyper-efficient 27 points on 15 field goal attempts, thanks to nine free throw attempts and a ridiculous 13 three-point attempts, of which he made six (including the aforementioned overtime buzzer-beater). While the numbers are grossly inflated and skewed in an oh-so-preseason kind of way, Ross had the right approach to offence in this one, mixing up a combination of drives to draw fouls and a plethora of threes, with little to nothing in between. The sophomore also showed off an improved handle, but before you get too excited, remember that Ross has been prone to ups and downs.
- One guy whose play has consistently warranted excitement this pre-season is DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan finished with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds, and is now averaging over 14 points on 54 per cent shooting through six games. Overall, DeMar is making good decisions with the ball in his hands and has showed off an impressive post game when matching up with smaller wings. Specifically, DeRozan has developed a near automatic up-and-under move to get to the hoop at will.
After the game, DeRozan said the move is about a combination of good foot work and the experience of knowing how players are going to defend him. He also mentioned that he’s watched tape of Kobe Bryant and Andre Miller in the post. Here’s hoping the expanded offensive game continues to shine come October 30th.
- Rudy Gay put together a nice game of 19 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from behind the arc and 7-of-7 from the free throw line in just under 26 minutes. Gay has now made 39 trips to the charity stripe through six games, even more impressive when you consider that he’s only played about 20 minutes per game.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody should be getting their hopes up based on six exhibition results against the Knicks, Celtics and Timberwolves, but it’s hard not to like how DeRozan and Gay have looked so far on the offensive end.
- Jonas Valanciunas was better in the second half on Monday, but his first half was really bizarre. Valanciunas looked a step slow of defence, confused on offence, he missed a couple of free throws in a row and was even out-rebounded by Andrea Bargnani on a couple of occasions. Luckily he bounced back after the break, so I guess we can just chalk it up to a really bad half in a meaningless game.
- 17 turnovers committed by the Raptors isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than the much sloppier ball we’ve seen earlier in the pre-season, especially when you consider the 10 additional minutes in this one.
- Kyle Lowry didn’t have a good statistical night (11 points on 3/11 shooting), but it was encouraging to see vintage Lowry being aggressive with his own offence. As for the reserve point guards, D.J. Augustin looked a bit better in very limited action (7:22), Dwight Buycks struggled and forced things, and Julyan Stone once again seemed to be the most reliable and under control of the three. Stone’s solid play didn’t show in the numbers, but he handled the ball well, made the right decisions (he didn’t commit a turnover in 24:48) and as Dwane Casey mentioned post-game, made some key defensive plays for the Raptors.
At this point, Stone has to crack the 15-man roster, right?
- Landry Fields had another positive game off of the bench as he almost reinvents himself on the fly. His offensive game is starting to look a lot smoother, and really, with all of the little things he can do for this team, it’s not like they need him to score in bunches to be of value to the bench.
- Speaking of the bench, while there were some solid individual performances, the unit as a whole continues to be outplayed. On a night when all five of the Raptors’ starters finished with a plus/minus of at least +5, seven of the nine reserves who played finished in the negatives, with only Stone registering a +2 (Quincy Acy was an even zero in 25 minutes). I know raw plus/minus can be a flawed stat, but this bench has been a concern so far through six pre-season contests and could be the Achilles heal of this team come regular season time.
Getting some consistent point guard play would be a nice first step.
- Tyler Hansbrough made some big plays in crunch time against the Knicks, but this game will be remembered as the night Psycho T met Psycho(er) MWP. Just take a moment to appreciate the “Damn, I didn’t realize it was Metta I was about to start something with” face Hansbrough makes, and his subsequent rush to resolve things.
I do recall a ‘fake tough guy’ claim made by a certain Raptorblogger last season, but I digress…
- 15,701 in attendance for a Monday night pre-season game is impressive in itself, but the crowd was loud and lively from beginning to end and a lot of fans actually stayed for both overtime periods. The atmosphere was almost enough to trick you into thinking this game meant something.
- A quick word on the Knicks. Their pre-season play/record has nothing to do with this prediction, but I really don’t like the makeup of this roster. They’re counting on Andrea Bargnani to rediscover his three-point shot for the first time in four years, Tyson Chandler to mask some glaring defensive deficiencies and Amar’e Stoudemire to stay healthy. Sure, they have more than enough talent to be a comfortable playoff team, but that should be about the extent of this squad’s expectations. Not only do I think they’ll fall out of the Eastern Conference’s top-four this season, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see them hovering outside of the top-five.