Meeting and exceeding some very high expectations this season in Toronto means the sophomores Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have to take another step and in the Raptors preseason tilt against the Thunder in Wichita Kansas on Friday night, they did just that.
The game turned into a 19 point blowout for Toronto and the unlikely lineup of Will Cherry, Jordan Hamilton, Bruno Caboclo, Tyler Hansbrough and Greg Stiemsma played most of the fourth quarter, however, Ross and Valanciunas left their mark earlier on.
The Raptors gave Ross the green light to shoot when he’s open and the 23-year-old put up 18 shots in 25.5 minutes and hit 9 including 4-10 from deep for 22 points to lead all scorers. They were not all catch and shoot or fast break opportunities, he made some nice moves to shake the defender and nail the jumper. It was a solid all-around effort.
Valanciunas had 14 points in 20.7 minutes by getting to the free throw line for 6-7 and generally working hard in the post. He was matched up with Steven Adams who played well, but fouled out in 24 minutes. Valanciunas was a noticeably heavy load down low.
The two teams starting units each scored 62 points and provided some excellent minutes for each other to work off the rust.
However, the Thunder has injury problems beyond just Kevin Durant and their bench was put to the test by the Raptors very deep second unit. They didn’t fair much better against Toronto’s training camp invites. It got ugly fast when Coach Scott Brooks pulled his starters. The Raptors reserves are fighting for minutes and jobs, they weren’t about to let up.
Lou Williams looked like he was playing a team from the summer as he scored at will with a very quick 11 points. Hamilton continues to show he can fill the basket – at least in preseason games. He had 13 points on 5-9 from the field.
The most impressive player on the court for the Thunder was 22-year-old shooting guard Andre Roberson. He gave DeMar DeRozan a hard time while shooting 7-9 for 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and 3 assists in 34.9 minutes. His over-aggressive defensive on DeRozan put him in foul trouble early, but Roberson played well with 4 first half personal fouls and managed to stay on the court.
DeRozan might want to thank Roberson for the practice. The Raptors All-Star got to the charity strip for 11 free throws in 22.7 minutes and had to work for his points.
Amir Johnson left the game after playing just 12.7 minutes when his left foot was stepped on. Watching him hobble off the court on one foot was disconcerting, but the incident that caused the injury didn’t look like something to be worried about.
Greivis Vasquez missed the game with a possible concussion. He was struck in the head by a ball during shoot-around.
The Raptors next preseason game is against Maccabi Haifa in Toronto on October 22.
Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December.