Two very different teams took to Scotiabank Arena, and though the end result was to be expected, it was a memorable game nonetheless. Kawhi Leonard‘s introduction is already an all-time memorable moment in Raptors history, with cheers so loud his name being called was difficult to hear in the arena.
-As far as basketball itself went, the Klaw was rusty to start. Having not played a real game since January, it was apparent Coach Nurse and the rest of the team tried to help Kawhi get going early on in the first quarter, but his first three shots didn’t fall. Fortunately, he picked it up later in the game and ended up with a 24 and 12 stat-line, albeit on 22 FGs. And he played defense (yes, that’s DeMar shade).
-The best player on the night? Kyle Lowry. Not only did K-Low help the most important piece of the game, getting Kawhi going, but he beat a ton of guys 1-on-1 and shot the ball incredibly well, going 10-12 for 27 points. Lowry is poised for another All-Star game and overall great year.
-Not to be outdone was Fred VanVleet, who looked great with 14 of his own points and several solid defensive plays that ranged from standing his ground 1-on-1 to poking balls loose.
-The one glaring issue from the night for the Raptors may be rebounding. There were miscommunications on the glass, which will stop happening with time, but also an overall struggle, especially when it came to Tristan Thompson. It did get better late and will continue to get better, but it’s something to monitor. The fact that it’s quite difficult to pick out legitimate flaws is probably a good sign.
-Good news, LeBron didn’t score at all tonight. All jokes aside, it was weird seeing this team without their star- almost sad, in a way. It must be nice for their guys to not have the insane pressure and media coverage that comes with playing alongside the NBA’s headline act, but the only source of excitement for the fans is Cedi Osman, which is quite the drop-off from four straight Finals.
-The bottom line is this game was a dress rehearsal for the Celtics on Friday, which is going to be incredible to watch. And hey, would you look at that, it’s on ESPN! By no means are the Raptors a finished product- there’s still a long way to go, and as we’ve learned, it’s April onwards that matters. This was a good place to start, and Friday’s game will be another building block against some real competition. As you can tell, I enjoy being better than Cleveland, regardless of if they have LeBron or not.