A 129 to 78 victory in their pre-season opener probably wasn't what Raptors' fans expected going into last night's match against the Suns, but that's indeed what transpired. The HQ breaks it down...
That's what you need to put beside any pre-season NBA performance right?
Because after all, it IS only pre-season.
And I'm not talking about scoring 129 points or holding Phoenix to 78, (although the 50 point disparity on the scoreboard was pretty amazing), I'm talking about the way in which Toronto did it.
For starters, let's talk D.
The Raps forced Phoenix into an ungodly 30 turnovers, and saw Triano's new defensive philosophies early and often; full-court D pick-ups, baseline forces, players getting into passing lanes...hell...even in extra extra garbage time, there was Marcus Banks making life miserable for Chucky Atkins and Goran Dragic. It was an absolute joy to see after last season's MC Lyte D..."Paper Thin."
As well, a 45 to 30 win on the glass brought a smile to my face, especially when Joey Dorsey, a player I've been begging the Raptors to give significant minutes to this season, was a huge part of this result. Dorsey is the reason I truly believe Reggie Evans is expendable as Joey had a double double (13 and 10) in only 18 minutes of action! He's a Dejuan Blair type and while not as polished offensively, he's got a better touch around the rim than Reggie, and is a superior passer with a more explosive leap. Evans played well last night, in fact he started next to Bargs to tip things off, but with Dorsey's play last night, I'd be hard-pressed not to look to deal an expiring contract combo of Reggie and Marcus Banks if I was BC, hopefully for some future upside.
Switching gears to the offense, again, hard to find much to complain about.
The team got contributions from everywhere to the point that all 15 players in uniform last night scored at least 3 points. There wasn't as much ball-movement as I was expecting, but the individual play of guys like Jack, DeRozan and Kleiza helped blow things wide open.
DeRozan struggled in the first half, looking much more like the same player from last year but in the second, was much more aggressive leading to a nice little run offensively which saw him finish as the team's second high-scorer with 16 points.
The leading scorer?
Nope, not Andrea, who we'll talk about in a minute.
Kleiza dropped in 20 points in effortless fashion, hitting 7 of his 9 shots. He also grabbed 5 boards in only 20 minutes of action, and before the game was finished the former Nugget was a trending topic on Twitter in Canada. He simply looks ready to play, both physically and mentally, and as National Post columnist Bruce Arthur noted last night after Kleiza's half-time interview:
Linas Kleiza: "I'm in pretty good basketball shape. I played all summer." He's the Bizarro Hedo!
Absolutely, and I also think he'll be Toronto's best player in 2010-11 when all is said and done.
Maybe Andrea scores more points, but in terms of having the most overall impact on this club, I'd say Linas will be the man.
But what about Andrea?
Are the rumours true that David Andersen, a player I criticized to death this off-season, actually outplayed him?
Bargs finished with 3 points on 1 of 9 shooting, and grabbed 4 rebounds in a team-high 24 minutes of action.
Not exactly a performance to write home about.
However I'm not going to write off his season here. The fact is that Bargs got doubled quite a bit and he's going to have to learn how to deal with that on a regular basis. He also rushed shots and just looked a bit anxious. I thought he actually did a nice job of being active on the glass when the opportunity arose, but considering the "soft" Andersen had the same amount of boards in nearly 10 minutes less court-time...well...let's just say Andrea needs play much better going forward.
A few final points here.
First, Jay Triano seems to have a new swagger to him. I was a Jay backer until about mid-way through last season when it became painfully obvious he was in over his head, but last night he just seemed a lot more "in control." He threw out various sets that forced Phoenix out of their offence, he got his team to execute reasonably well considering it was pre-season, and I just got the feeling that his Team USA experience this past summer has taken his game up a notch. Great to see, and let's hope that continues on.
The point guard situation is an interesting one. To me, there's no question Jarrett Jack should be the featured PG at this point, but his rapport with the second unit last night was so good that it'll be up to Jay to truly maximize both he and Jose Calderon's effectiveness.
The Suns did not look good. Sure, no Channing Frye or Hakim Warrick and they lost J Rich early to a sore shoulder, but woah. This team is really a collection of jump shooters and when those shots aren't going down in the big, bad west, minus Amar'e this team could be in big trouble. Asterisk, pre-season of course...
Oh Hedo. 6 points on 3 of 10 shooting. Get your fill Suns' fans. Yes he grabbed 8 boards, but there was absolutely nothing in the Ottoman's play last night that suggested to me that last year was just a "tough season" for Turk, as Jack Armstrong and others have alluded to, to my chagrin.
I said this on Twitter last night but the term "tough season" should be reserved for injury-prone players etc, not guys who don't commit.
Greg Oden had a "tough season" last year.
Hedo was lazy and overrated to begin with.
Turkoglu and his Suns have a chance at redemption from this thrashing of course, as they take on Toronto once more in pre-season play, on October 17th.
However to say that I expect Hedo to dominate the match ala his Orlando days is like saying I expected last night's Raptors demolition of the Suns...