Raptors Report: Week 2
The Raptors opened the week on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, taking on the defending Western Conference champion Thunder. After reaching the NBA Finals a season ago, OKC traded a key piece of the puzzle in James Harden to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin and others. The Raptors looked to take advantage early in the season against a team that is perhaps not fully comfortable with each other yet. The Thunder came out shooting lights out, taking advantage of poor defensive rotations by Toronto. On the offensive side of the ball, the Raptors could not get anything going, and trailed 30-17 after the first frame. Things went from bad to worse in the second quarter when standout point guard Kyle Lowry went down with an injury. At halftime, the Thunder had a commanding nineteen point advantage. Oklahoma City did not let up in the third period and the fourth quarter was just a formality. The lone bright spot on this night was the play of youngsters Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. The latter of which had a team high 18 points on a very efficient 6-8 shooting. Raptor fans have to hope Lowry is not on the shelf for long if this team is going to have any success this year.
Following the beat down in Oklahoma City, the Kyle Lowry-less Raptors invaded Dallas to square off with the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks. Jose Calderon got the start in place of the injured Lowry. Toronto coach Dwane Casey would love to get a win against the team with whom he won an NBA Championship as an assistant coach. The same problems that plagued the Raptors against the Thunder continued in the first half in Dallas. Poor offensive shooting combined with lowly defense against one of the top teams in the league is a recipe for disaster. After 24 minutes of play, the Mavericks led 61-50. The only thing that held the Raps in the game was their free throw shooting. The Raptors just refused to fully go away in the second half. They hung around and by the 2 minute mark in the fourth quarter, they were within 6 points. The comeback did not come to fruition as the Mavs held off the rally and won 109-104. Chris Kaman and OJ Mayo led the way for Dallas, scoring 22 points apiece. Andrea Bargnani topped the Raptors with 25 points to go along with 9 rebounds.
After an unsuccessful road trip, the Raptors returned to the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night to host the Philadelphia 76ers. With Kyle Lowry still on the shelf, Toronto lost another starter in Landry Fields, who was nursing a wrist injury. Alan Anderson started at small forward in his place. The home team came out with a lot more energy on both ends of the floor in the first quarter. Jonas Valanciunas was active on the glass and DeMar DeRozan made a couple highlight reel plays. The Raps held a 26-20 lead at the end of the first. All the positives from the first period went down the drain in the second. The Raptors were outscored 32-7 in the frame and found themselves down 52-33 at the half. The Raptors play 15 of their first 22 games on the road, so during the rare home games, it is imperative to play well. Hopefully Dwane Casey’s halftime talk would get his team in the right state of mind. Whatever was said in the locker room seemed to work as the Raptors turned the tables on their visitors in the third. Going into the fourth quarter, the Raps managed to trim the Philly lead to a mere 7 points. When the bench players came in to start the fourth, the level of play dropped off once again. The 76ers reestablished their lead and never looked back, taking the game 93-83, dropping the Raps to 1-5 on the young season. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 23 points on the night.
There is a busy week on the horizon for Canada’s lone NBA team. They host the Utah Jazz on Monday night before hitting the road for a rematch with the Indiana Pacers. They will get a nice break and play Saturday afternoon in Boston against the ageless Celtics and close out the week at home against the Orlando Magic.