The focus heading into last night's game was the return of Tristan Thompson coming home to Toronto. At the end of the night it was the home town team he watched as a kid at Skydome. In his NBA debut Thompson had a pretty impressive outing against the Raptors despite his team dropping their home opener. It would end up a disappointing night for the estimated 200 or so people that came specifically to see Tristan Thompson's debut in Toronto. What was also disappointing was the crowd beyond those 200 friends and family that were in attendance. Officially the attendance was listed at 14,468 but it seemed like less. That did not include the media presence which was strong for this one. In the end Thompson had just 1 point and 3 rebounds in 16 plus minutes of action.
Andrea Bargnani would have 30 more points than that and continue this amazing run he has had to start the season. Again getting 7 rebounds to go along with that impressive scoring night and 3 assists. Shooting a lights out 11-16 from the field. You keep expecting Andrea Bargnani to come back to earth but to this point he has not. On the day that All-Star voting has begun he is putting up All-Star worthy numbers to this point. Demar DeRozan who last season made a total of 5 three pointers matched that Wednesday night in a single game. He credits the work he put in during the off-season in which he would make 300 threes while working on the shot in a given day. He was 9 of 18 overall and finished the night with 25 points. While Jose Calderon had 13 points and 11 assists shooting 6-8 from the field. The Raptors have a Big 3 now? Really? Maybe not just yet but on this night they sure did.
The other thing that should be pointed out is the Raptors defence actually was better the second time around against the Cavs. Holding them to just 77 points from 94 points in the opener and from 41.2% shooting percentage, to I believe a season low for an opponent of 29.4% from the field last night. This is significant because the Cavs players and coaching staff obviously had video to break down of the first meeting and ultimately still could not find weaknesses to exploit. That is an encouraging sign. It is also lends some credit to the fact that Casey says this defence continues to evolve and improve. He seemed very encouraged from the effort last night based on his post game comments.
Aside from the obvious numbers that jumped off the page from the 3 main Raptor players their were some other positives. Ed Davis had another solid outing against the Cavs with 8 points and 7 rebounds. James Johnson had 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. The main issue for the Raptors coming out of this game might lie on the offensive end at the small forward position. Butler was 0-6 in 16 minutes and Johnson just 1-8 while Gary Forbes was 1-4. That adds up to 2-18 for those keeping score at home. Still Casey in the post game presser was more focused on the defensive effort of Johnson and seemed less concerned with the lack of production on offence. The bench as a group combined for 20 of the Raptors 43 rebounds on the night. Raptors actually lost the battle on the glass 45-43. But they won where it counts on the scoreboard 92-77 to even there record at 3-3.
I came to watch Tristan Thompson debut and ultimately walked away impressed with the Toronto Raptors. In the beginning my concerns that Raptors basketball was heading back to the dark days of Kevin O'Neil seem to be fading away. This Raptor team is proving they can score while playing on a defensive level to a point that we have not seen perhaps since O'Neil. While the people that remain pessimistic will point out their wins are just 2 over the Cavs and a win over the struggling Knicks who lost to the Bobcats on this night. Even in the loses the defence has been "The Rock" or constant in this equation. Which is the most encouraging sign. Casey talks about wanting to play with playoff style intensity on defence. There is no guarantee that leads to the actual playoffs for this group. But enough eyes have opened up to at least not just dismiss the idea as crazy. Casey has brought along with defence some accountability back to this basketball team. You will work hard on the defensive end or you will not be seeing much time on the floor. It really is as simple as that.