The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER—Kyle Lowry slashed through defenders with ease—moving with a fluidity earned over a summer of hard work.
The Raptors’ point guard netted 26 points in 21 minutes to lift Toronto to a 93-73 victory over the L.A. Clippers in the team’s NBA pre-season debut, showing off what a summer of slimming down can do.
“I thought Kyle moved well,” said Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey.
“I thought he did a good job, I thought Cory Joseph came in and did a good job with the second unit,” he noted.
“Kyle was aggressive, made his shots, [and] got to the free-throw line, which was huge.”
Lowry played the best basketball of his career early last season to earn NBA all-star honours, but his play deteriorated down the stretch.
He turned heads when he showed up at training camp and last night he was like a man on a mission, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“That’s Kyle. He has been doing it all week,” said DeMar DeRozan, who had 11 points in 26 minutes.
“The only thing is he just thinks he’s more athletic now,” DeRozan added with a smirk.
Jonas Valanciunas, fresh off a strong EuroBasket performance that saw Lithuania win silver and earn an Olympic berth, grabbed 12 rebounds to go with 10 points.
But he also had five turnovers.
Luis Scola scored 13 points—one of several off-season acquisitions who had solid debuts last night.
The Toronto-born Joseph, meanwhile, looked comfortable directing the second unit.
He will see more playing time tonight when the Raptors play Golden State in San Jose because Lowry is nursing a sore groin.
The game provided an early gauge of Toronto’s defence—the focus, as always, of Casey’s training camp.
“I think defensively we were great,” said DeMarre Carroll, who instantly provided the defensive bite the Raptors were hoping for when they acquired him in the off-season.
“Offensively we were a little stagnant,” he admitted.
“But we really haven’t practised offence that much during training camp. That’ll come.”
The game drew a capacity crowd of 19,000 that included former Vancouver Grizzlies’ guard Mike Bibby.
Fans waved “We The North” banners. And they booed Toronto’s arch-enemy Paul Pierce, who led the Washington Wizards in a sweep of the Raptors in last season’s playoffs.
The Grizzlies played in Vancouver for six seasons before moving to Memphis, and last night’s crowd was dotted with the old Grizzlies’ jersey.
The pre-season game was the first of four in the Canada series.
Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves will play the Chicago Bulls in Winnipeg this Saturday.
The Raptors then face the T’wolves in Ottawa on Oct. 14.
Then they’ll cap the series when they play the Washington Wizards in Montreal on Oct. 23.
The final three games are expected to sell out, as well.