Toronto, ON- We’re in the home stretch; these the dog days of the NBA pre-season where the real Raptors fans endure, and endure they did on Wednesday night.
The long NBA pre-season is nearing an end, and in the final exhibition game at Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors beat Israeli Super League team Maccabi Haifa 92-85.
It was a mostly forgettable game that felt like it dragged on much longer than the official game time of two hours and 11 minutes. The game felt slow due to constant whistles and broken plays. Fifty-two fouls were called, 24 on the Raptors and 44 total turnovers were made, with the Dinos coughing up the rock 25 times. This led to a very choppy viewing experience for fans.
Despite the poor play, the Raptors finished strong, even after allowing Maccabi to go on a 16-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
It was a game only the truest of fans could have watched. The Raptors came out of the block looking like they had never played with one another. In the first quarter, the Raptors turned the ball over eight times, finishing the quarter tied with Maccabi 19-19. A spirited showing by the Raptors’ second unit redeemed the poor play of the starters in the second quarter, with James Johnson scoring at will leading the team with eight points at the half.
Raptors fans got their first look at Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira , who made his pre-season debut, sitting out previously because of a hamstring injury. He showed his ability to protect the rim, swatting away two shots in his first few minutes in the second quarter. Nogueira finished with eight points, two rebounds and those two blocked shots in just under 11 minutes. Coach Dwane Casey praised the rookie big man, “ Lucas came in and turned some shots,” Casey said, “I was really impressed by the way he came in and played.”
Fellow Brazilian Bruno Caboclo also made his Air Canada Centre debut, playing alongside Bebe and the second unit. The Raptors’ rookie finished with four points and two rebounds in just under 13 minutes.
The story of the first half, and the game, was the production from the bench. Coach Casey let the second unit play the lions share of the game with guys like Jordan Hamilton, Greg Stiemsma and Will Cherry logging major minutes. With roster cuts coming, coach Casey said he needs to see what these guys bring to the court, “We want to make sure we give them a good look…we want to see where they are and if they can perform,” Casey said.
Greivis Vasquez led the Raptors with 15 points from 5-10 shooting. His play off the bench helped display the scoring punch available from the second unit, a group that might help win the Raptors a few extra games if the starters struggle.
The game dragged on in the third, and was only made interesting by the 16-0 run by Maccabi Haifa in the fourth quarter. The Raptors didn’t score until about halfway through the fourth with a Brunco Caboclo slam dunk getting things going again. Casey played his bench for the rest of the game, allowing them to finish off Maccabi.
Despite the team’s poor performance, Kyle Lowry (11 points, six assists) said he thinks the team is having a solid pre-season. “I think we are learning and getting better,” said the star point guard, but added, “We have to do some things execution wise better…We need to focus a lot better,” Lowry said.
The game probably leaving many with the thought, “Only one week until real basketball.”
Yes, its true. There’s only one more pre-season game to go- Friday Oct. 24th vs. the New York Knicks in Montreal. After that, the real show starts with the team traveling back to the Air Canada Centre, starting the 2014-2015 regular season against the Atlanta Hawks.
Be patient Raptors’ fans, just a few more sleeps to go.
Notes: The Toronto Raptors will soon make their final cuts, bringing their regular season roster down to 15 players. There are currently 17 men on the roster. The most likely to be cut are two of Jordan Hamilton, Will Cherry, or Greg Stiemsma. Before the game, Coach Casey said those cuts will come on Saturday Oct. 25th.
Lou Williams and Chuck Hayes were DNP-Coach’s decisions on Wednesday night.
Before the game, there was a slightly different feeling in the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night, part of which had to do with the Raptors facing opposition from Israel.
Ahead of the game, fans were warned about extra security, and were asked to get to the Air Canada Centre a little earlier than usual. As a result of events that unfolded in Ottawa earlier in the day, additional security guards and police officers were assigned to Union Subway Station, Gate 1 and outside the ACC. Toronto police’s canine unit was also present, while those entering the stadium were checked with metal detectors.
Before the national anthems, the Toronto Raptors made an announcement about the death of Canadian soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed while on guard in Ottawa. A moment of silence was observed in his honour before the national anthems of Israel and Canada played.