Raptors best Knicks in Montreal
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
|Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas blocks Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Que., Oct. 19, 2012. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - NBA basketball returned to Montreal after a two-year absence and a lively crowd breathed life into what otherwise likely would have been a "let's get this over with" pre-season contest.
Instead, an entertaining affair ended up as a 107-88 win for the Raptors over the New York Knicks.
There were a lot of Knicks jerseys in the sellout crowd of 22,114 at the Bell Centre, but the Raptors still garnered the bulk of the support and, in the end, rallied for the victory.
The Raptors struggled early, falling behind by 13 points, but powered back behind Kyle Lowry, who played superb defence and hit a halftime buzzer-beater to square the game.
The pseudo-home team rode the momentum into the third, outscoring the Knicks 30-20 in the quarter and then blew the doors off in the fourth.
Before the game, head coach Dwane Casey said of Lowry, who struggled with his outside shooting earlier in the week: "He's a much better three-point shooter than he showed the other night. We have plays set up for him to shoot from outside."
Indeed, Lowry nailed five treys, dished out five assists and added four rebounds.
Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with 20 points, Amir Johnson added 14, DeMar DeRozan 13 and Carmelo Anthony chipped in 24 for the Knicks, but had a terrible night from the outside.
GET THE POINT?
While Casey still won't declare a winner in the battle to be the team's starting point guard, Lowry is going to be the guy and the coach gave another hint about that outcome.
"It's going to be a fluid situation most of the year. I was hoping to have it done by now, but injuries have played a part in that," Casey said of determining the starter and backup. "Kyle being off for a while put a little monkey wrench in it, but we'll figure it out as we go along."
Casey said Calderon is "an important part of what we do," and indicated he would get a lot of minutes regardless.
The Spaniard was in a rare scoring mode on Friday, scoring eight points before collecting his first assist.
The Raptors experimented a lot, as expected, with a two point guard lineup against a New York squad that often turned to the same tactic.
Before the game, Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas called New York's Tyson Chandler, the reigning defensive player of the year "a really good player."
Chandler made life quite difficult on the rookie -- he spiked a third quarter shot attempt into the ground in the most blatant example -- and taught him a few lessons.
A loose whistle from the referees also put Valanciunas off track. Early foul trouble threw him off of his game and he was left shaking his head after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter.
Still, despite the tough moments, Valanciunas still managed a game-high 10 rebounds, and was one of the top players on the court in the fourth quarter.
STILL NOT AT FULL STRENGTH
Though Bargnani and Lowry played big minutes, Ed Davis was held out because of a lower-body injury and Terrence Ross, who banged his knee earlier in the week, played just five minutes.
"We have to start getting healthy bodies so we can get that chemistry and see what we look like together. When one guy goes down, kind of messes up your chemistry a bit," he said.
"The group from last year functions pretty well, but we've got to get the defensive chemistry as well as the offensive chemistry coming in with the new guys. It's a work in progress, but I see it coming together."
Toronto's bench seems destined to be a strength this year. It has been a while since the franchise has had a group of formidable reserves, but the group looked strong against the Knicks.
Alan Anderson and John Lucas played some big minutes and were solid, Linas Kleiza deposited some timely buckets and Calderon did his part.
Casey also can turn to Dominic McGuire when he needs a defensive stopper. He stuck McGuire on Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter.
AROUND THE RIM
Casey got a chance to coach against two of the starters who helped him win a championship in Dallas with Rick Carlisle. Chandler remains a defensive force, while Jason Kidd was lauded by Casey for his basketball IQ which will make the Knicks "a much smarter team."