There was a great buzz in the building for this game, as Toronto fans packed the Air Canada Centre to watch their Raptors take on the Los Angeles Griffins. What, it’s kind of true.
The Raptors got off to a great start, and Amir Johnson was doing a fabulous job on Blake Griffin, but Amir picked up two quick fouls and struggled to stay on the floor for the rest of the night.
The two teams traded runs throughout the first half in what was clearly shaping up as a tightly contested ball game. After a pretty entertaining first quarter though, the game came to a screeching halt and was played at a snail’s pace for most of the second and third quarters. I don’t know if it was that both teams were playing chippy or that the refs just decided to call every little bit of contact (it looked more like the latter), but it seemed there were free throws on practically every possession.
For the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan continued his trend of starting games with the hot hand and Andrea Bargnani continued to return to his pre-New Year form. For the Clippers, Griffin worked his tail off against some decent Raptors defence and Baron Davis provided some secondary scoring in the first half.
But in the second half, Davis was taken out of the equation and the only Clipper really helping Blake out was Brian Cook. That tells you where this was going for the Clippers.
The Raptors began to pull away towards the end of the third quarter, and though the Clippers kept it close in the fourth, Andrea Bargnani seemed to hit a big shot every time the Clippers made a bit of a run.
In the end, the Raptors managed their 15th victory of the season in a good ball game. I’ll say it again: if the Raptors can continue to entertain their home fans with close games like they did tonight, and still manage a top-five pick, there’s nothing to really complain about. And credit the fans themselves, who made the atmosphere in the building a lot better than it should have been for two teams with combined records of 34-73.
While Bargnani and DeRozan carried the scoring load for the Raptors and Jose Calderon registered a double-double of 10 points and 11 assists, the Raptor that stuck out to me was Ed Davis. The rookie continued to impress with some solid, physical defence on Blake Griffin in relief of Amir Johnson. And to go along with his usual defence and prowess around the glass (14 rebounds), Davis even added some scoring, with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
A couple of other notes before I leave you on this Sunday evening. I mentioned that the second quarter and parts of the third really dragged on. With the low scoring in those quarters, the free throws, and both teams’ dependence on zone defence, it really felt like we were watching a college game.
Lastly, if tonight was any indication, Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan should put on a good show next weekend at the dunk competition. Griffin had the road fans out of their seats with this monster jam, and DeRozan threw down a hammer of his own later in the game. Let’s hope these two save some air time for the competition, and give us something to get excited about, unlike last year, DeMar.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani -41 Min, 27 Pts, 9-21 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 8-9 FT, 6 Reb, 2 Ast
Clippers Player of the Game: Blake Griffin – 36 Min, 21 Pts, 7-13 FG, 7-10 FT, 15 Reb, 2 Ast
Goat of the Game: Randy Foye – 37 Min, 5 Pts, 2-14 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO