Phew, that was a bit of a stinker last night, eh? The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat combined to commit 42 turnovers and jack up 96 three-pointers, and the Heat — without Jimmy Butler — came out on top, 117-105.
For the Raptors, though, the important thing wasn’t the outcome, but rather the start — in which Kyle Lowry returned to the court for the first time since September.
Let’s start there, shall we?
Welcome Back, KLOE
Nick Nurse has said all week that Kyle Lowry looked great in camp, but still, it was nice to see the evidence with our own eyes, wasn’t it? We got the full Kyle experience in the opening minutes, with a quick-trigger three, a lack of continuation on a called foul, a near-offensive foul drawn and the requisite complaining to the officials.
His shot was a little short as you’d expect, but beyond that he looked like the same old Kyle. He finished with 25 points on 14 shots in 27 minutes.
And man, I really missed him.
Great to Have Jack Back Too
Jack Armstrong is always entertaining to listen to, but on a Friday night, right before Christmas, in a meaningless preseason game? You had to figure we were in for some gold! In the first quarter alone we had Jack dragging “New England preppies” and professors with elbow patches on their tweed jackets, giving what must have been the highest-pitched “Get that gahbage outta here” on a Chris Boucher block that I’ve ever heard, and singing Christmas carols going into the break. And did you see his crazy long hair!?
I don’t think anything beats the third quarter, though, when Jack had no idea what Matt Devlin was talking about when Matt asked if Jack had “tap” on his credit card... and Jack then followed that up by dunking on mouthy Utah Jazz fans!
He’s a gem. This is going to be a weird season, and I’m glad Jack is here to provide extra color for it.
Boucher off the Bench
It looks like Chris Boucher has locked in the first big off the bench spot, which is fine; as a change of pace player he suits what the Raptors do better than Alex Len.
It was certainly a nice sign to see him hit three straight three pointers in the first half. Of course, he forced a fourth, and missed — which has been the big problem with his offensive game thus far. But, if he can just rein that in, and consistently shoot the three within the flow of the offense, he should be a perfect fit for that seventh man role...
... but let’s not sleep on DeAndre’ Bembry. He’s shown excellent hustle and some heads-up offensive play, and he might creep up the depth chart — exactly as he did in the third quarter. A little competition for spots 7-8-9 isn’t a bad thing!
I love everything I’m seeing from Pascal SIakam, including his silky smooth three-point shooting and his heads-up playmaking.
Everything, that is, except for his play in the paint. He still looks awkward trying to finish at the rim, which is concerning — though he did finish a nice baby hook early in the third.
Let’s focus on the positives, though. It looks like Pascal is seeing the floor better than ever; he tossed several nice cross-court passes as the D shifted his way, and I’ve been waiting for that quicker-decision-making to come. And the three-point shooting... I mean, it was only like 20 months ago when we were yelling “noooo” every time he cocked it back behind the three-point line. The mechanics look so much nicer now, his shot honestly looks like it’s dropping through on every attempt.
I love all of that progress. Let’s just see the inside game catch up!
The new white uniforms look really good, I must say. And the red ones, too, look better than I initially thought; I actually wonder if they made the white outline of the letters a touch thicker on those — it seems like. “RAPTORS” stands out more than the initial photos.
All of that said, when I asked my wife what she thought of the new uniforms, she squinted at the screen for a moment before coming back with “are they really different?” So I said, yeah, the chevron etc. and she said, “I guess they’re fine but I don’t really think that much about them... I don’t really think of any particular uniform with the Raptors.”
She went on to explain that the team has had so many different uniforms over the past few years that she doesn’t associate any specific one with the team, like the Lakers gold or Celtics green. Which is a reasonable take — between red, black, white and multiple retro, city, OVO and earned looks, it’s been a closet-full over the past several years. But that’s kind of a bummer, isn’t it? If you became a fan during the team’s most successful period (as my wife did), and there isn’t a uniform or look that goes with the team’s success?
Maybe it’s time to put a pin in multiple new uniforms every year!
We’re now only five days away from the official start of Toronto’s 2020-21 season. I can’t believe it’s here already! Judging from this game, the Raptors still have some work to do before they’re really ready — but then, I expect most of the league does too.