Well, that did exactly nothing to get me fired up about the Raptors’ season. Toronto came out of the gate sluggish tonight in the opener against the Knicks, falling behind by 16 early and seeing a late push fall short in a 98-93 loss at the ACC. Andrea Bargnani, assuming the top dog status for the first time, busted out with 18 in the first half, but a no-show second left him with 22 to finish on a not-so-hot 8-of-21 from the field.
Bargnani’s second half performance wasn’t the only thing lacking for Toronto tonight — Jose Calderon somehow managed to look worse than he did in his previous godawful season, Amir Johnson’s first act off his $34 million contract was to pick up three fouls in seven first half minutes and DeMar DeRozan came out showing none of the improvement we were under the impression he made after an apparently strong summer showing. Calderon had seven assists in 18 minutes off the bench but missed a handful of soft layups and DeRozan finished 2-of-7 and had nine points in 26 minutes.
Reggie Evans, who got the start ahead of Johnson at power forward, grabbed 16 rebounds in 33 minutes and held Amar’e Stoudemire in check for the majority of his New York debut, only to disappear late and allow his counterpart to score on what seemed like every Knick possession in the fourth quarter. It was enough for Devlin and Armstrong, though, who even felt the need to praise Evans for his “great defense” on a play where he fouled Stoudemire on a 20-foot jumper. Stoudemire finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks but had nine turnovers for the Knicks, who got 22 off the bench from Wilson Chandler to lead their attack.
The Raptors got 13 points from Linas Kleiza in his debut, though he came up short on a three in the final minute that would’ve tied it up. In all, Kleiza looked solid, knocking down a few jumpers and using his size to clear room in the post. Leandro Barbosa also debuted, finishing with 13 of his own on 6-of-16 in what seemed like a rather forced performance. Guess that’s what you get from a guy that’s designed to provide instant offense off the bench, though.
Losses at home are never encouraging, especially ones against the Knicks in season openers. We shall push on though, even if its en route to a 20-win season, which is looking all the more likely after tonight. The excitement, by the way, continues Friday at home against the Cavaliers, who looked fine in beating the Celtics (yes, the same Celtics that LeBron and friends fell to last night) in their opener tonight. Hey, I guess anything is possible after all. 81-1 for our Raptors then?