Raptors Report: Week 1
At last, the 2012/2013 NBA season is upon us. The new look Toronto Raptors tipped off their season against the Indiana Pacers on Halloween night at the Air Canada Centre. The Pacers gave the Miami Heat all they could handle in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and are certainly going to be in the hunt this year as well. For the host team, the Kyle Lowry era began, as did the long awaited debut of Lithuanian sensation Jonas Valanciunas, who started at centrr. Both teams came out of the gates firing in the first half, with fast paced, back and forth action. At recess, the score was knotted at 48. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey must have given some motivational words to his team at halftime, because Toronto dominated the third quarter, carrying an eight point advantage into the decisive frame. Midway through the fourth quarter, the tide began to turn as Indiana went on a run sparked by power forward David West. With just over 20 seconds to play, the score was tied and an out of bounds call that could have gone either way went in the favour of the Pacers. George Hill drained a floater in the lane to give his team the lead with 2 seconds on the clock. Andrea Bargnani misfired on the potential game-tying jumper and Indiana stole a win on the road. Despite the loss, there were many positives to take away from the contest. Lowry had a huge game, scoring 21 points, dishing out 8 assists and nabbing 5 steals. Jonas Valanciunas became the first Raptor rookie since Damon Stoudamire to record a double double in his debut. The Lithuanian had 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Coming off their heartbreaking loss to Indiana, the Raptors looked to get into the win column on Saturday evening when the Brooklyn Nets opened their new billion-dollar arena since moving from New Jersey. The Nets figure to be contenders in the Atlantic Division this season with the resigning of elite point guard Deron Williams. Brooklyn bolstered their backcourt by signing all star shooting guard Joe Johnson. The Barclays Center was originally going to open on Thursday night against the state rival New York Knicks, but due to Hurricane Sandy, the game was cancelled, leaving the Raptors with the tall order of spoiling the first regular season Nets game in Brooklyn. Toronto came out firing and handled the pressure of playing in a brand new stadium very well. Kyle Lowry picked up right where he left off on Wednesday night, leading the Raps to an eight point advantage after one quarter. The second period was disastrous for the visitors. The defense could not seem to get a stop, and the offense was lackluster to say the least. The eight point lead the Raps had built became an eight point deficit at halftime. The third was a back and forth affair, with the Raptors managing to hang around going into the deciding period. Unfortunately, Lowry picked up his fourth foul late in the third, leading to John Lucas III getting some playing time. Ed Davis led a Raptors rally early in the fourth, but it was not to be for Dwane Casey’s squad on this night, as they fell 107-100. The highly touted backcourt of Williams and Johnson was outplayed by the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry topped the team with 28 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. DeRozan added 25 points of his own. The difference in this game was Brook Lopez. The Nets big man topped his team with 27 points.
The Minnesota Timberwolves rolled into the ACC on Sunday and looked to keep the Raptors winless. The Wolves were without star players Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, but they still would not roll over and give up. The first quarter was extremely sloppy, with both teams turning the ball over frequently. The pace was slow and disjointed, but the Raps nursed a one point lead after twelve minutes of play. Minnesota kept turning the ball over in the second and the Raptors capitalized, closing the quarter on a 10-2 run. At halftime, it was 56-47 in favour of the home team. In the third, it started to show that the Raptors were on the tail end of a back to back. Lazy play on defense allowed Minnesota to eat away at their deficit, but once the bench players checked in, Toronto got a spark and led going into the fourth quarter. Allan Anderson was huge off the bench providing a spark to the offense, and the Raps iced the game with around 4 minutes to play. From there, they cruised to a 105-86 win. DeRozan and Lowry were huge factors once again, but a big story was the play of the Toronto bench. The second unit poured in 42 points, providing a big scoring lift.
Next week the Raptors go out on the road and play against the reigning Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder and follow it up the very next night in Dallas against the Mavericks. Toronto returns home to host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening.