It was a very entertaining game from a neutral standpoint, coming down to a few plays down the stretch. That is how close the Raptors came to a major upset of the Indiana Pacers. In the end, David West lead the Pacers down the stretch and George Hill hit the final blow that sealed the deal.
The Pacers escaped the Air Canada Centre with a 90-88 win to start the season.
The Raptors were being talked about before this game even got started for the contract extension they came to with DeMar DeRozan. He will be a very well paid man for the next four seasons and will remain with the Raptors. As for his night on the floor, it wasn’t that great, as he missed his first five shots and only had 10 points on the night.
Kyle Lowry was as advertised for the Raptors and rookie Jonas Valanciunas was only the second Raptor to record a double-double in his debut. There were lots of talking points from the first game of the season for the Raptors. Here are the five that will likely dominate the conversation.
If you watched this game and didn’t walk away impressed with Kyle Lowry, I'm not sure what to say. He was flying around the floor and had five steals to go along with a strong performance on offense. He was also paired on the floor, at times, with his backup Jose Calderon, and it was an effective pairing for the Raptors.
He played 36 minutes and was flirting with triple-double type numbers with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The numbers speak for themselves, but it was more than just numbers. It was the attitude and the fight he displayed that the Raptors needed to feed off at times.This was after a less-than-impressive first half where the Pacers shot over 50 percent from the field.
The short version is Kyle Lowry did everything the Raptors could have hoped for when they traded for him from Houston. The fans watching at home and at the Air Canada Centre got a quality performance from their new starting point guard.
When you play for the Toronto Raptors and you tie a rookie record set by Damon Stoudamire in the team’s first season of existence, you must be doing something good.
That is what Jonas Valanciunas did, becoming only the second Raptor to record a double-double in his rookie debut for the Raptors. He did have some trouble with fouls at times, but the points when he was on the floor as the starting center were impressive.
He was able to stay on the floor for just over 23 minutes. In that time, he still managed 12 points and 10 rebounds, and six of those rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Being matched up against Roy Hibbert, did not seem to faze him in the slightest. Jonas, for those who have yet to see him, is not your typical European. He loves contact and does not shy away from it at all. Even matched against Hibbert, who is one of the taller centers in the NBA, was not a problem.
He did only shoot 31.2 percent on the night, but many of his baskets came from him rebounding some of his own misses—the old school Moses Malone approach to padding your stats. Not that you get the impression stats matter for Jonas, he is just interested in the success of the group and how he can contribute.
Sure, there were some moments in the first half where Roy Hibbert and the Pacers tried to test him and succeed. In fact, the first play for Pacers went right to Hibbert, which was no accident. Jonas swatted the ball out of bounds.
The Pacers may not have known much about Jonas going in, but they do now and likely respect him more.
It is Raptor fans nature to blame the referees. It is a grand conspiracy against Canada that the Raptors do not get calls.
That is not exactly true, and even if it was, could you really prove it?
The call in question came on a missed shot by the Pacers in which Gerald Green and Jose Calderon were both going for the miss and the ball went out off both of them—or so It appeared at first glance. The referee who was closest to the play could not see the play, and it lead to a huddle of the three game officials.
They concluded the ball went off Calderon last and it was the Pacers' ball.
The play would be reviewed, but the decision was vital to the ultimate outcome. In order to change that call, they would need definitive proof that it was wrong. In the end, all bias aside from me personally, it was tough to call. If I had to pick a side, think it did go off Green last, but it was almost impossible to tell.
The result was the call stood, which led to the final couple possessions of the game. It was vital to those plays, as it gave the Pacers a fresh shot clock with less than 24 seconds remaining in the game, which was tied at 88.
It is easy to blame the refs in sports. Just ignore on the possession before that DeMar DeRozan ended up taking an ill advised three. If Raptors got points on that possession, the Pacers would have been playing to tie the game or win it with a three.
Truth is, there are tons of small moments in every game that could change it. This was not a bad call by the referees in the end. Would you have liked the ref closet to the play to have seen the play and made the call? Ideally, you would, but even on the replay this was a tough call to make.
The game came down to the final two possessions after that call was decided. The Pacers would have 21 seconds to play with and try and win the game. They got the ball in to George Hill, who had Kyle Lowry playing him tight. He ran the clock down and was able lose Lowry and make a beautiful rainbow floater in the lane.
He did leave 2.1 seconds on the clock that would be left for the Raptors to answer trailing 90-88. They would get the ball to the guy they would want to have it in Andrea Bargnani. He missed a highly contested mid-range jumper in the corner and that was all.
You might wonder if you would have rather had Lowry taking the shot, based on how he was shooting in comparison to Bargnani. Also, it is worth considering that Bargnani had missed the last two days with the flu prior to this one. But they got a shot off, and if he is your guy, then you live with it.
As for the Pacers basket by George Hill, he just made a solid play in a pressure situation and he made the shot he took almost impossible to block.
Raptor fans are no doubt upset with the ending of this game. Especially when you include the call that didn’t go their way that we talked about earlier. However, this was not just about two plays and a call alone.
How about the fact that David West was killing the Raptors the entire fourth quarter prior to that. He was a big reason the Pacers were able to fight back in this game. Raptors starters on the wing were not good, as DeRozan had just 10 points and Landry Fields did not record a single point.
DeMar DeRozan confirmed, in his postgame remarks, that his contract extension with the Raptors was reached prior to the tip of this game. There had been several reports on the terms of the deal. It is a four-year contract extension for somewhere between $40-44 million. Michael Dunlop one of our writers here on Bleacher Report, is going with $42 million based on a report from Mark Spears from Yahoo! in his article.
He also sees this as a horrible move for the Raptors. This was the universal response on my Twitter timeline.
He makes valid points in his piece and there is no question that what he is saying makes sense. Still, allow me to bring up some other things to consider from he perspective of someone who has lived and died with this team for now 18 seasons.
First of all, this is a pet peeve of mine. Is it so wrong to at least take a minute and be happy for this young man? He works hard and he is a good young man who has always been great to deal with, as someone that covers the team. These players, from James Harden to anyone else, only have a certain amount of time to play this game.
Make no mistake, if any of them gets hurt and they are no longer useful, teams and fans would toss them to the curb. It is in their best interest to make as much as they can in the short and uncertain lifespan that an NBA career can have.
Secondly, people have complained and moaned about all the guys that have left the Raptors behind. Here is a young man, that has determined he wants to remain and instead of being happy people complain he is being paid too much. You are trying to have it both ways are you not?
If you want players to stay, than you want them to stay. If you are concerned with your team’s cap situation, than you have to accept that players are expendable.
My last point would be that perhaps the Raptors have changed their overall approach to building their franchise. They do have new ownership and change in their spending philosophy could be possible. When you consider that the Raptors find themselves in a division with three teams that have little issue going beyond the tax threshold, maybe the Raptors have decided to make it four?
If that is the case, retaining talent should be the priority. The Raptors have not had much luck in terms of free agency, so to keep their own drafted talent and be willing to make trades to build their franchise might be the way to go.
Having said all of this, I really need to get an agent like DeMar DeRozan. He did an excellent job for his client.
People had a similar feeling when Andrea Bargnani signed his extension. Is this a big risk? Yes, it is, but the Raptors obviously feel confident in the young man they have invested in.