Greetings everyone. With the new Raptors season, the Points Per Game blog, posted the morning after every Raptors game also returns.
As a refresher, this blog is named PPG because I break down a few interesting points from the previous game (I also usually sprinkle in some interesting quotes and relevant quotes).
Let’s get rolling:
- Welcome back Amir Johnson. Johnson, savvy veteran that he is, might just have coasted a bit through the pre-season. Johnson averaged 6.5 points and five rebounds during the exhibition slog and never seemed particularly engaged. That all changed in the opener, where Johnson got off to a fast start and probably was Toronto’s best overall player. Johnson scored 16 points, grabbed 10 boards (five of them offensive, helping the Raptors to a 48-42 advantage on the glass against one of the best rebounders in NCAA history, Paul Millsap, and the excellent Al Horford). Johnson attempted 15 shots (second on the team), something he did only four times all of last season. Johnson had a bounce in his step that wasn’t there earlier this month, in the playoffs against Brooklyn or really, since last February or so. A healthy Amir is a wonderful thing for the Raptors.
- His teammates provided another reason why Johnson was so good Wednesday: “Amir had a great game and it’s a contract year, so he gotta do what he gotta do, huh?” said Greivis Vasquez with a knowing smile. Vasquez was asked whether players keep track of contract year status. “Yeah, like you guys don’t?” Then he continued on Amir: “I don’t blame him. I hope he gets all double doubles, I hope he gets the max.”
- The bench was fantastic and that was the focus of my story last night. A bit more on that: Vasquez was a team-best +11 and looked good playing alongside Lou Williams. Patric Patterson was +10, Williams +8, Tyler Hansbrough +5. For sake of comparing, Kyle Lowry was a -2, a rarity and DeMar DeRozan led the starters at +5 (I’ll say it now and repeat it often, I’m not huge on +/- in basketball, but it was worth mentioning about Wednesday’s game).
- Vasquez on the Louquez pairing: “It’s going to be really interesting. Lou and I, we can do so much. Run pick-and-rolls, he can score, I’m definitely going to get him going, because we need him. He’s big-time, he can score at any time at any given point.”
- Dwane Casey said Hansbrough seems to have a better idea of what he should be doing while on the floor and where he should be and that is leading to improved spacing for the whole team.
- Asked Jonas Valanciunas what his Halloween costume would be … “My face!” he said, pointing to his bushy beard. “That doesn’t even make sense,” I replied as he walked off. Valanciunas just waved his hand in the air, grinning.
- Don’t think the Hawks will be quite as good as the Raptors this season, but that is definitely a playoff team in the East. They zip the ball around the court well, Jeff Teague penetrates at will, creating easy shots and the roster is stocked with gunners, including Kyle Korver, who is flat out ridiculous. Patrick Patterson mentioned afterward that Horford was clearly rusty, given his long layoff and would be back to being a force in no time. When that happens, the Hawks are going to be solid. Thabo Sefolosha was a sneaky good add who will help the Hawks guard the East’s better wings, something DeMarre Carroll can also do.
- Round of applause for the fans. Let’s see how they do when it isn’t a special occasion (I’m sure they’ll still trump most of the rest of the league), but on opening night, they were tremendous.
- Patterson wants the fans to come up with a name for the bench. Get on it, folks.
- Credit to DeMar DeRozan. Couldn’t get things going offensively, forced some shots, couldn’t get a call, but did other things extremely well. Career-high in rebounds (11) and steals (six).
- One thing Casey wants the Raptors to do a much better job of this year is get to the rim. For one night, at least, it was mission accomplished. The Raptors shot 33 free throws, Atlanta just 17. And Toronto, a good free throw shooting team, hit 82% of the shots.