Raptors 119, Cavaliers 94 | Box Score | Quick Reaction | Reaction Podcast

The Toronto Raptors acquired Kyle Lowry in July of 2012. By October of 2012, just two preseason games into his tenure, I was sold, penning an early missive of appreciation. After TWO preseason games. At the time, Lowry was joining the team with a bit of a shaky reputation from an off-court perspective, questions over whether he was a starting caliber point guard, and assurances that he had the competitive fire and tenacity to become a fan-favorite, if nothing else.

Looking back here, four years later and four games into the 2016-17 exhibition schedule, it’s incredible how far Lowry’s come. He’s gone so far beyond answering the initial questions and proving himself not just a starter, but a star, that the biggest questions around him this preseason are either ethereal in nature (Can he be an MVP candidate?) or mostly unrelated to his own performance (Can the bench step up enough to help limit his workload?). The growth in Lowry’s game, stature around the league, and importance to this franchise over the last four seasons is nothing short of remarkable, and it never ceases to both impress and inspire.

To wit, even in a meaningless preseason game Thursday, Lowry was able to awe with a stark reminder of just how good he is. It took Lowry all of 20 minutes and nine field-goal attempts to tally 25 points, helping the Raptors shake off an ugly start against the Cleveland Cavaliers and cruise to a 119-94 victory. Lowry, himself, started a little shaky, committing a few miscues in the opening minutes. He settled in from there, stabilize the youth-heavy starting lineup around him and playing the bulk of the first half, with a similar rest pattern to what he can expect in the regular season. Once down 12 points thanks to porous defense, the Raptors surged to a 19-point halftime lead on the back of Lowry’s scoring and playmaking, and he called it a night after two quarters with the game safely in hand.

Lowry, in other words, is ready for the regular season. The time with the U.S. Olympic team doesn’t appear to have slowed him any despite his admission he had to alter his offseason gameplan, and for as much as preseason can tell us, Lowry looks, well, like Lowry.

That’s all you really want to see from your established guys at this point in October. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are fond of talking about how they trade possessions, quarters, or even games to dominate, and that’s been evident in the preseason. DeRozan went off while Lowry sat against the Clippers, and Lowry went off while DeRozan sat against the Cavaliers. All told, they combined for 45 points on 20 field goal attempts in 38 total minutes in those two games. The Raptors go how Lowry and DeRozan go, and in that sense, the Raptors would probably be comfortable with the season starting any time now.

That Cory Joseph came in and carried on Lowry’s dominance – first alongside and then in his stead – speaks further to the apparent readiness of the primary pieces. Joseph took major steps a season ago in blowing past his previous career high in minutes, but there were elements of his game that were sometimes found wanting. All through the preseason, he’s shown a renewed confidence in his jump-shot, pulling up over screens in the mid-range to complement his funky dribble-attack game. Against the Cavaliers, Joseph mixed his drives and jumpers to cruise to 17 points in 19 minutes, with the offense experiencing very little drop-off with Joseph as its primary operator. Even Fred VanVleet, called on as the third-string point, kept things humming with another steady performance. For at least a night, and really for the entire preseason, the Raptors’ point guard corps looks to be in good shape.

There’s more to training camp than just getting the regulars in form, though, and in that regard the Raptors have some work to do.

On a night in which DeRozan (rest) and Jared Sullinger (foot) both sat, the regular-season starting lineup didn’t get any time together. Sullinger’s played just once in the preseason, and his fit and comfort with the starters will likely be a major focus over the final three games and week-plus of the preseason. Terrence Ross (knee) sat, too, so the Raptors were playing without three rotation players.

That’s not a big deal in the course of the preseason, but it does leave a major question mark difficult to answer: Is the defense going to be a problem? The Raptors defended well against the Golden State Warriors, and the bench-heavy groups have done a great job executing to the final buzzer and using their energy to limit opponents at that end. The primary rotation, however, has struggled in three consecutive games, at least early on. The Clippers’ devastating three-man pick-and-roll attack was nearly unstoppable, the Nuggets scored at will for an entire half, and the Cavaliers feasted on a steady diet of open threes in the early moments of Thursday’s game. They figured it out and settled in, particularly as it pertained to keeping Kevin Love in check, but it seems as if guarding the 3-point line might be a problem once again this year.

It’s still early, though. The preseason is more about the positives than the negatives, and there were enough of the former Thursday. Kyle Lowry remains firmly Over Everything, Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, and Patrick Patterson look to be ready to go, Jonas Valanciunas continues to produce despite not looking his best, and the tryout players are performing well enough to make the decision difficult for the Raptors’ brass. Somehow, three more preseason games remain, the final two of which will be something resembling a full dress rehearsal. Until then, everyone still has Friday against San Lorenzo de Almagro to make their case for a bigger role in said rehearsals.

  • Dunkenstein

    I have little doubt in Lowry’s ability. I am concerned about his ( and to a lesser extent DeRozan ) regarding their being worn out by the time the playoffs roll around as they appeared last year. This year, with their roles on the US team that problem may be further exacerbated.

    Vanvleet appears to have captured the 15th spot on the team. As well as Heslip has been playing, he doesn’t have all the tools that the former is blessed with. I look for Vleet to become a regular NBA rotation player. As per his abilities…he may even challenge for third string pg this season when whatsisname for minutes when he returns from injury. Vleet was a great pick up. I think it’s a toss up between he and Pascal for the” Norman Powell Award” this season.

    I’m particularly encouraged by the way Carroll was moving last night ( only saw first half of the game). He was a pain in the butt for the Cavs offense. I think he was more mobile than at any time last season. He’ll be a major plus if he stays healthy. Along with Sullinger ( don’t call him Sully ) they could become a major upgrade to last season’s starting five.

    Twelve days to the start of the season. The pre season is taking way too long.

    • YamYam84

      It will be great to see Sully take flight in a raptors jersey that’s for sure!

      Amen to your points – I’m very excited by what Sullinger can do with Scola/Biyomvo’s minutes. Much more of an offensive threat. Having DMC around frees up Norm/Ross to feast on bench units aswell. I think we still have a better squad of players than Boston, no reason why we shouldn’t repeat as #2 seed

  • Steve Alex

    I like how there is only one comment on the article you first wrote on lowry. Seems like the RR community has come a long way!

    • keith

      it is the off-season still. Wait till the season starts, then you will see all the fanatics writing on everything.

      • Steve Alex

        No I actually was being serious. We had 800+ Comments to the Quick Reactions during the playoffs.

        • keith

          I’m being serious too, you are comparing an article during the playoffs and an article during the offseason. I myself comment a lot less when the regular season or playoffs is not going on…well maybe the draft!

          • Steve Alex

            Okay not the right example to make my Point sorry! The cuttend preseason articles have about 10 comments each.
            Same Here, i am just so happy the Season is about to Start Again!!

  • Steve Alex

    Can somebody tell me the logic behind what is considered a field goal attempt and what isn’t? Lowry cleary didn’t just try to score 9 times. My question basically is, why are fouls drawn on the way to the basket not considered a FGA…

    • BlakeMurphy

      Fouls drawn only count as a FG attempt if the bucket sticks – makes no sense to give a player a missed shot attempt when he was hacked. And FTs are efficient, so “25 points on 9 shots” is a way of conveying the efficiency at hand. Could have also said “25 points on 14 shooting possessions” to include 5 trips to FT line, or “25 points on 18 possessions” to account for 4 turnovers (though that ignores the assists), and so on…just different ways of conveying box score stuff/efficiency.

      • Steve Alex

        I get that, but thanks anyways. I just think that if the FGA is recorded when the bucket counts it should also be when the bucket does not count. I mean isn’t that the whole purpose of FGM and FGA?

        • BlakeMurphy

          Not really. You’re talking about penalizing a player statistically for drawing a foul (a desirable outcome) vs. rewarding them for hitting a shot while fouled (increasing the # of points possible on that shot)…it’d be terribly unfair to say Lowry shot 6/14 last night, and it would give you a worse indication of his performance than 6/9 and 10/10 on FTs.

          • Steve Alex

            Well obviously its penalizing him because he could have just made the bucket. The player gets two free throws and if he makes both of them he has basically the same overall stats (+2 points) as before.
            The whole point of FGA is penalizing the player for not making a basket. I get that its harder to make a basket while fouled.
            I get both sides of the argument its just that you statistically dismiss the missed basket while fouled.

            • BlakeMurphy

              “He could have just made the bucket” is pretty simplistic, given the nature of some fouls. He didn’t miss the bucket, he got fouled. And he shouldn’t be penalized, because drawing a foul is nearly as good as making a basket, anyway. It makes perfect sense, to me.

              • Steve Alex

                It is overly simplified yes. But those stats do not account for the degree of difficulty on the shot. Some of the And One’s are open lay ups as opposed to a turn around contested 3 at the end of the shot clock.
                To me dismissing the missed attempt on a foul is comparable to dismissing an attempt on a near full court heave at the end of a period, where its probably more likely to make a three point play.

                • keith

                  how so? a full court heave is a non-contested shot during the course of a play. The shot isn’t affected by anything but the abilities of the player.

                  When a player gets fouled while shooting, the shot is being altered by an illegal act . Basically it is now a free play after the fact. Very similar to football when a defense is caught offsides, the offense has a free play and if the QB misses the throw they don’t count the pass attempt. but it does count if the throw is completed and the penalty is not accepted.

                • Steve Alex

                  Yes and because it is illegaly altered i think it shouldnt be Counted in either way.
                  An Attempt is an attempt Regardless of the Outcome right? So By Definition if You add an attempt when the continuation is successful You should also add one if not.

                • Indeed

                  If you are interested in a more complex and accurate way to evaluate a player, perhaps advance stats are the better ones to use. Most sports provide basic stats, and they are simple, but provide marketing value. But the actual evaluation from teams are based on advance stats, and may still have a gap between reality.

                  As Blake suggested, you can look at the efficiency stats based on possession. And particularly for a PG, how he is distributing and setup plays would be more related to possession based statistics.

      • YamYam84

        It’s like a walk in baseball – you don’t count the AB because the guy at the plate hasn’t been given a fair opportunity to play the ball

  • Mark boothe

    JV looks perfectly fine to me. He is shooting mid range without hesitation and seems fit to me. I believe his poor performance at olympics is somehow carrying over in peoples minds. Its way overblown.