There’s a catch to playing games in Honolulu, Hawaii. Yes, the weather is nice, and the team camaraderie probably comes easy when you’re holding two-a-day workouts near a beach. But then comes the stark realization: if the Raptors play a game at the very reasonable time of 7pm locally, it means, gasp, the game is on at one o’clock in the gotdamn morning in Toronto.
This is the situation for tonight as the Raptors prepare to take on the Clippers for the second time this pre-season. As you’ll recall, Toronto already took it to the new-look Clips on Sunday night with a 121-113 victory. A nice story, to be sure.
But now the Raptors will try — a relative term in the pre-season — to do it all again. Here’s the info you need, and some things to watch for (if you stay up that late).
Where to Watch:
TSN at 1am (yes, you are reading that right)
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Clippers - Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Raptors - Malcolm Miller, and presumably OG Anunoby.
Look, we know what Lowry, DeRozan, and Ibaka can do. We even know what Miles can do, given how often the Raptors have played against him the last few seasons. Norman Powell is going to play a lot more this season, but we know he can dunk and play with a certain ferocity. But Valanciunas, the passing big man?! That’s something new.
All through the summer Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey talked about trying to change the culture of the Raptors. They knew they’d need more ball movement, a more flexible offense, and more shooting (every team always needs more shooting). It was fair to assume that Valanciunas would only figure into these changes if he could extend his shooting range and maybe mix up his offense a little bit — and yet after one pre-season game, he’s out there throwing passes we’ve never quite seen from him before. (I’m partial to the back-door bounce pass he threaded to a cutting Lowry — which didn’t earn JV an assist because Lowry flubbed the lay-up.) The dude had a career-high four assists!
Now, is Jonas suddenly Nikola Jokic or Marc Gasol, the pinnacles of passing centres currently in the NBA? No. But did the Lithuanian Big Man Whisperer, Arvydas Sabonis say something to Jonas this off-season? Who’s to say? Let’s watch tonight and find out.
The Pace of Three
The Raptors managed to shoot 43 threes in their first pre-season game on Sunday. Obviously, there are giant caveats attached to that number, as pre-season games lend themselves to a certain, let’s say, apathy. (It is very nice and easy to just fire up a three rather than work the ball in and around the court, for example.) Still, it suggests something about the Raptors’ hopeful culture change.
Of course, the Raps need to make these threes for it to matter. The team shot 11-for-43, or 26 percent, in that game, which is, hmm, not good. The worst offenders were Ibaka at 1-for-9, along with Miles and Bruno Caboclo going 2-for-7. This is the kind of thing that happens when teams rely on the three-point shot, so it’s best not to get too up in arms about it. The positive point to make here is that the offense appears to be generating more open three-point chances, which the Raptors will need to survive in the modern NBA.
Folks, this game is on at 1am. If you’re up and watching it, kudos to you, and I welcome any and all contributions to our Game Thread post that’ll go up at, good lord, midnight. At the very least, we can look forward to some regularly scheduled games next, with Toronto stopping by the Moda Center in Portland on Thursday, and then a pair of games on the east coast — including, get this, one(!) in Toronto.
We’re getting closer to the regular season, folks.