I guess when you cover the Toronto Raptors you should never be upset when at the end of the night you walk away with a win. However, I can’t help myself from feeling that way after the home opener which they hung on to win 93-87. It did make think about the merits or lack of them in watching the pre-season to some degree. DeMar DeRozan had been without question the best Raptor through the seven complete games of the pre-season. His line for the home opener was pretty horrible with 13 points shooting a terrible 6-19 shooting night with 5 turnovers and steals in 40 minutes on the floor. Terrence Ross in just 12 minutes looked better with 6 points in about one quarter of the time. Rudy Gay did lead the Raptors in points with 19 but also had 5 turnovers and the same two steals while shooting 8-18 from the field.
Amir Johnson who was on cruise control for most of the pre-season knew it was time to play for real games as he had 13 points and shot 6-8 including a three which you would rather not see him taking. In fact all the Raptors big guys had nice nights. Jonas had just 8 points but 11 rebounds. While Tyler Hansbrough off the bench was the one guy that looked much like he did in the pre-season with 7 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes off the pine
Entering the game there was some questions about Kyle Lowry and how he would play with his injured finger. Not a good shooting night going 2-8 but got to the line a lot despite not shooting well their either going 7-12 but the best sign was the 8 assists and just 2 turnovers on a night that was full of them. D.J Augustin took the back up minutes and was equally as bad shooting it going just 2-7 with 5 points and one assist and just one turnover.
The Raptors within this game were wildly inconsistent. They came out flat as pancake after the over top player intros and pre-game nonsense. They trailed after one and started off giving up the first 6 points of the night before Amir Johnson broke the seal on the basket that seemed to be there in the early going. They came out in the second and looked like a totally different team. They would get up by a significant margin only to let the Celtics back in the game. At one point in the third the Raptors had a 16 point lead and by the end of the third the game was tied. Again in the fourth the Raptors got up 10 only to let the Celtics creep within shouting distance before finally shutting the door.
I guess it goes like this, if you accept the fact that Boston is a terrible team and factor that into things you really are left to wonder how good Toronto actually is. I mean at several points in this game it looked like two very bad basketball teams. When you look ahead the Raptors schedule in November and December is far from easy. A lot of road games and if this game was played on the road you have to wonder if the result would have been the same. The Raptors will need to be much better if they hope to avoid Masai Ujiri from hitting the self-destruction button on this group.
A couple of non-basketball notes for you, the first on the new mascot Stripes. At first I was like this is lame and they copied the name of the Hamilton Ti-Cats Mascot. I guess Mascot names are not copyrighted. I was angry until I saw what the Pelicans of New Orleans have as a mascot. It was some horrific green bird like creature that looked as if it had been on Bourbon St and was puked on. So the moral of the story is it could be worse and we are extremely lucky to have the best mascot in all of sports in THE REAL RAPTOR.
Secondly and maybe the most significant story of the day? I will not have to rant like a crazy person about pizza anymore this season. If you forget look below for a reminder:
Pizza Pizza has finally at least 3/4's fixed the problem with the pizza promotion. Now if the Raptors score 100 points AND WIN you get a free slice of Pizza. It will still allow for those awkward moments where the team is up 99-82 and have the ball with less than 24 seconds to play. Which is still an issue but at least we won’t have fans cheering for Pizza with the Raptors down 20. It only took 3 years or more to get that done. It only took New York fans one game to boo former Raptor Andrea Bargnani. Thankfully that is no longer our problem.
Raptors still have many problems though and nothing they did convinced me this is anything close to a playoff team. It is only the first game of the year so there is time to change my mind but it was not a ringing endorsement to save for your playoff tickets tonight.
Oh and actually the pizza thing is the second best thing that happened today. The first was not me completing the Wrestlemania Mode on WWE2K14 but the game is great. No it is Sam Mitchell being on TSN broadcasts this year. Maybe if we dare to dream he can replace someone rather than work along side them. Regardless of that it is great to have another truth teller on Raptor Broadcasts. Jack Armstrong and Sam Mitchell will always shoot straight from the hip and this Raptor fan base respects people like that.More to the point I do and that is what I do in my small way here everyday.