Melo_Amir_AP_Oct19_2012

Raptors shine in Montreal, beat Knicks 107-88

Toronto Raptors’ Amir Johnson blocks NY Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (photo credit: AP)

The Toronto Raptors and the New York Knickerbockers visited ‘La Belle Province’ and the city of Montreal for a pre-season NBA game in front of a sold out crowd at the Bell Centre, as a part of ‘Canada Series 2012′. The Raptors left the Bell Centre with a 107-88 win over the Knicks, which continued to offer optimism about the work they’ve put in during Training Camp thus far.

Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors were hot from behind the arc, making a total of 12 of 26 in 3 pointers, including Lowry who went 5-6 from 3 himself. Lowry was a big part of the offense which he will continue to be all season. Kyle scored 17 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and managed a steal and a block in 30 minutes of play.

Carmelo Anthony had a solid all around game individually, scoring 24 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks, but he went 0-7 from 3 (8-20 from the field overall), and he didn’t appear to get his teammates involved through the game. It appears this may be the same ol’ theme that will follow the New York Knicks again this season. Amare Stoudemire was the 2nd highest scorer for the Knicks, posting 18 points on 8-11 from the field, and hauling in 5 rebounds.

The Knicks got out to a 13 point lead early in the 2nd quarter with the score 35-22, but the Raptors battled back, re-gained the lead and didn’t look back.

Jonas Valanciunas started his 3rd straight pre-season game at center for the Raptors. He had some foul trouble, but managed to play through it going head to head with one of the NBA’s best defensive centers and players, the New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler. JV posted 10 boards in his 23 minutes on the court. Amir Johnson was strong coming off the bench scoring an efficient 14 points (5-6 from the field & 4-6 from the FT line), 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.

Andrea Bargnani returned to the court after a minor calf injury in the Raptors’ last game vs. the Washington Wizards. He looked energetic on both ends of the floor. He scored 20 points, grabbed 7 boards (3 of them offensive!), and 2 blocks. Andrea & Jonas seem to be playing well off of one another, which will pay dividends through the season. Having 2 active and efficient 7-footers on the floor at the same time is a luxury few teams in the NBA can claim to have. As a side note, Andrea led all players in the game with a +28 plus/minus for the game. The Raptors starting unit as a whole was very effective on both ends of the floor in the game.

Landry Fields faced his former team for the first time as a Toronto Raptor, and made his presence felt everywhere. He finished the game with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals as a starter in 26 minutes. DeMar DeRozan continues to be active in all phases of his game, showing the strides he’s made to become a better all around player. He scored 13 points (on 5-12 from the field) and added 3 rebounds and 3 steals! One of my favourite players in the NBA, John Lucas III, is showing Raptors fans why he will be an asset for the team in providing offense and uptempo pace whenever he’s on the floor. In just over 8 minutes, ‘JL3′ scored 12 points going 4-5 from the field including 2-2 from 3 point range, 2 rebounds, and an assist. I believe he will be a key part of the Raptors’ bench this season, providing quality depth and versatility in style of play.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is now starting to tighten up the Raptors’ rotation and he’ll continue to do so over the next two pre-season games vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and the Memphis Grizzlies before the regular season officially gets underway on Halloween night. Unfortunately we’ve only seen the Raptors’ 2012 2nd round pick, power forward Quincy Acy, in 2 games this pre-season in very limited time. Unless there is an injury to one of the players ahead of him on the depth chart (or poor play), not much will change in that regard going forward through the regular season.

The beautiful city of Montreal has now hosted the Toronto Raptors in 2 pre-season games in the past 3 seasons (2010 and 2012), vs. the same opponent: the New York Knickerbockers. Each time, Bell Centre, has been sold out with a maximum capacity crowd listed at 22,114! It was a very impressive turnout that had Coach Casey raving after the game about the fans who came out to support the teams:

“I wanna say one thing about the fans here. I don’t know if we can bottle it up and take it back to Toronto, but they are exciting fans, great fans, packed house. Guys on the sideline were yelling at the referees, and gettin’ on them. You know, it felt like we were in an NBA city. Great arena, great building, hot building, and it was good for our guys to give them a hard fought game.”

After the game Casey also indicated that he decided to give Ed Davis the night off just before game time in order to rest some ailments. He also mentioned that Terrence Ross is getting over some knee pain, and as such he only played limited time (just over 5 minutes) in the Raptors win.

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