The Raptors are still trundling through the pre-season with their dogged persistence and 2-2 record. They’ve been travelling a lot, having played games on the North American west coast, and Cleveland, Ohio. All four of their preseason games have been on the road, in fact. So this turn of events feels like a particularly cruel joke: there is exactly one (1) true home game for the Raptors this pre-season, it is tonight, and it is against the Argentinean championship team San Lorenzo de Almagro, a team not of the NBA.
This problem is compounded by the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays, of MLB fame, are in the American League Championship Series against that other team from Cleveland (not the Cavaliers). That series starts... tonight.
So then, conundrum: the Raptors are playing a basketball game that not only does not count, but also does not track as an accurate representation of NBA-level competition. And what’s more, our old pal Luis Scola, a hero of Argentinean basketball lore, isn’t even here to enjoy it.
Just a bummer any way you slice it. Except the Jays are in the gotdang ALCS, an event that has happened a mere seven times in my entire life. (And half of those times were before I was fully conscious of anything outside of, like, getting candy or playing with Lego.)
Let’s get back on track here. Three things to watch for in tonight’s game:
The Battle for the 15th Spot
Despite the heavy minutes for Drew Crawford last night, it looks like the 15th man spot is a race (such as it is) between Fred VanVleet and Canadian Brady Heslip. Both have shown the Raptors something, though VanVleet got 15 minutes last night to Heslip’s 12.
In Fred’s case, the Raptors are getting a steady hand, smart defender and descent enough shooter — all things you’d like in a third string point guard. With Brady, in comparison, he’s probably a step behind defensively, but his jumper is wet. So, yeah, it’s still fairly close to call. (My money is on FVV though.)
Deciphering the Probable Regular Season Rotation
Admittedly, this has been tough. Last night, for example, the Raptors elected to play without DeMar DeRozan and Jared Sullinger. Terrence Ross also sat out due to a sore right knee. As a result, after an incandescent few minutes from Kyle Lowry (and some solid play from DeMarre Carroll, and sure, Jonas Valanciunas), the Raptors rolled out a lot of minutes for their bench guys.
It remains unclear how exactly coach Dwane Casey will stagger the minutes of Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas. Furthermore, how often will he go to a frontcourt combination that includes two of Carroll, Patrick Patterson and Sullinger? Meanwhile Lucas Nogueira’s minutes of waxed and waned, like his attention span, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be getting solid 12-15 minutes a night. Plus, hey, what of Norm? We’d like some answers here, to be honest.
So, watch this game and maybe find out?
But really, watch the Toronto Blue Jays
I don’t have much to add here. The Jays feel favoured against Cleveland’s team, they’ve been on an unholy, and highly entertaining, tear as of late. And as many have pointed out, in this showdown between Toronto and Cleveland, our city has the LeBron James figure (or maybe two or three depending on how you want to consider the combination of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion). Our staff writer Dan Grant broke down the series here — spoiler alert: he favours the Jays.
That game begins at 8:08pm tonight, which brings us to our final, sad Raptor point...
Where to Watch: 7:00pm on NBA TV Canada