Did you get chills?
Seeing that lineup standing there in the middle of Lottamatica? Listening to the crowd cheer their adopted “home” team for the first pre-season game? Looking at the Raptors lineup there are many reason to be exciting. Up and down, you can feel the possibilities of this team that on any given night, someone’s going to step it up. Will it be Garbajosa with some long range bombing? Will it be Delfino with aggressive play to the basket?
The Raptors took a nice lead after a slow start. Seeming to take pages out of last year’s run the Raptors looked towards their ball movement and fast breaks in order to build a lead. Of course, the Celtics made it interesting and kept pounding the Raptors inside using KG and Perkins to attack the Raptor’s interior. In the end, the contest was definitely more entertaining than the usual pre-season fare, but there were a lot of things to consider from this game. From the Celtic’s side, it’s still very clear that they are going to be a very interesting passing team, and that the fears of having three All-Stars having trouble sharing the ball were greatly overestimated. Sharing, in fact, was one of Boston’s strength with consistent passes out of double teams, and making the extra pass. In fact, it was very reminiscent of “Raptors’ Ball”. Nevertheless, Doc Rivers rode his starters hard for most of the game, with Garnett, Pierce and Allen all logging in more than 30 minutes each. In fact, with all three playing all their minutes within 3 quarters of play, it was quite impressive to see the Raptors keep pace.
It’s here where we could see the complete difference and purpose between the Raptors and the Celtics. Mitchell did not play any starter for more than 25 minutes the entire game, and was first to throw his end of the bench into the game. Taking a look at the players, Jamario Moon received the most burn, but was far from the impressive partly polished athlete that most Raptors fans believed him to be. Looking lost at times in the offensive sets, Moon attempted four 3-pointers and did not make a single one. Maceo Baston, though, looked to be as advertised as an aggressive rebounder, and while Luke Jackson didn’t set the floor on fire, he did defend fairly well, and worked his offense within the Raptors system. (As an aside, seeing Luke and Jose on the floor for a lot of the 2nd half gave me headaches… Similar hairstyle, height and numbers 6 and 8 respectively.)
However, the most focus that Raptors fans should squarely be placed on the starting lineup. No one knows for sure if Mitchell will keep it as such on opening day, but most people (including NBA 2K8) have the lineup as: TJ Ford, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. Overall, this group gave Boston a lot of difficulties, especially with everyone’s ability to shoot, and everyone’s relatively good speed ability. Andrea Bargnani undoubtedly has gotten more definition in his arms, and was seen to try to aggressively attack the basket, get good posting position, while keeping his 3pt shooting ability. However, his interior defense left a lot to be desired as he had problems keeping KG in front of him, even with his considerable speed. As a result, he was posterized several times. Jason Kapono was an interesting person to look at. A better defender due to his height, Kapono kept Allen and Pierce in front of him for most of the game and shot well on the other side of the court. However, I’ve noticed that his dribbling makes him look off-balanced at times, and this could be an area of concern, as he often requires to be in a set position before shooting. Nevertheless, he played well in his first Raptors action. Finally, Delfino didn’t stand out much in the game, but looked to attack the basket several times and produced some dribble penetration from the wing, which will undoubtedly shift defenses and allow the Raptors to find open spots. With 5 rebounds in about 23 minutes, Delfino looks to be that “hard nosed” wing player as advertised by Pistons fans.
So while the Raptors lost this first preseason game, I look forward to their further work during this preseason. I’m sure some people are disappointed by this loss, but in the end, the goals of the Raptors and the Celtics were too large to accurately evaluate both teams for the regular season. It’s good to note that a lot of the Raptors players did try to attack the basket, and while they came up empty a lot of the times (due to unfriendly rims) they still attacked, and attacked, and attacked. Shooting seems to be in the same form as it was at the end of last year, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more high screen-and-rolls as the season begins.
It’s a great time to be a fan, and the season can’t start soon enough!