The pre-season is finally over.
Finishing off their exhibition schedule with a three-point bombardment of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, next up for the Toronto Raptors will be to receive some very, very expensive jewellery Tuesday night.
But despite the excitement ahead for opening night, the Raptors were sharp in their final tune-up game, looking every bit the defending NBA champions they are.
Here are a few takeaways from a 123-107 Raptors pre-season-finale blowout of the Nets.
Lowry make his pre-season debut
Friday night marked Kyle Lowry’s first and only action of the pre-season.
It wasn’t particularly productive as the five-time all-star had just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting, but regardless of what he looked like out there it was more important just to see him on the court talking trash and taking shots with confidence.
Lowry had been dealing with a thumb issue — something that may still be bothering him given his poor shooting performance Friday — that had kept him out of every Raptors pre-season game before Friday’s affair.
There was never much concern that he was going to miss the start of the regular season, but even a veteran like him needs to get into at least one tune-up game to get the juices flowing before games start being played for real.
Mission accomplished on that front, and now it looks like it’ll be all systems go for Lowry.
The Raptors were the personification of a fire emoji from deep
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse used a lot of his seven regulars Friday night (Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka) and they all, with the exception of Lowry, delivered big from deep Friday night.
Between those seven players, they shot an astounding 17-of-34 from deep, a stat indicative of the team’s scorching three-point shooting in general.
The Raptors shot 53.5 per cent from three-point range Friday night and had 10 of the 15 men who got into the game for them hit at least one.
On an individual level, most encouragingly, was probably seeing Anunoby go 4-for-8 from outside. This is an important season for Anunoby, who has shown flashes of becoming a top-end three-and-D wing threat in the flash but will need to be that consistently this season.
Seeing him splash open looks with ease should put Nurse’s mind at ease.
Everyone’s a No. 1 option
As impressive as the Raptors were from deep, what may have been even more impressive was their strong team play.
Coming into this season there have been — and remain — questions about who the go-to option is going to be. Most have that role pegged to Siakam.
But what if the Raptors don’t actually have one, because they don’t need one?
That certainly looked to be the case Friday night as they racked up 31 assists on 44 made field goals.
Granted, this was a pre-season game in a blowout win, but it became a Raptors blowout victory precisely because the Raptors shared the ball.
Not every game during the regular season will look as pretty as the Raptors made it in Brooklyn Friday, but the fact that the chemistry and trust seems to already be there for the team is a very good sign for their offence moving forward.
Davis certainly looks like a rotation piece
One of the biggest questions facing the Raptors ahead of the start of the regular season is, ‘Who will fill out the rest of Nurse’s rotation?’
The seven regulars mentioned before are set in stone, but what about the last two or three spots?
It’s still up in the air, but unless something truly catastrophic happens to him, Terence Davis II is bona fide rotation piece.
Finishing with 10 points and going 2-for-3 from deep in 15 minutes of action, Davis’ combination of athleticism, shooting ability and fearlessness makes him a veritable lock as a big factor for the Raptors during the regular season.
Davis was the first man Nurse turned to outside of his regular seven and he looked poised and comfortable playing with those guys. This is important to note because a lot of his other competition, such as Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (who was unable to play Friday due to a sore left groin), never looked like they managed to settle in during the pre-season.
But Davis looks like he belongs and that should, at minimum, give him a shot to show what he can do starting Tuesday.
Who will start at the two?
Other than the battle for spots at the back of the rotation, another big question remaining for the Raptors in regards to what their lineup will look like come Tuesday and beyond is who of VanVleet and Powell will get the starting shooting guard spot.
All throughout camp Nurse has maintained that parts of his rotation will be “fluid,” and this likely includes who will start alongside Lowry in the backcourt.
This was obviously just a pre-season game, but judging by the limited evidence we’ve seen from Toronto’s four pre-season contests it looks like VanVleet could have the inside track.
Of the four pre-season games, Vanvleet and Powell have played in three of them, and in two of those games — the couple in Japan against the Houston Rockets — VanVleet and Powell started together.
As such, Friday’s contest is noteworthy because Nurse came out with a starting lineup that sure looked like it could be his regular starting group in the regular season: Lowry, Anunoby, Siakam, Gasol and VanVleet.
Does this mean Nurse likes the idea of starting dual point guards more often? Maybe, but, again, this situation is “fluid” and Powell could very well get the brunt of starts at the two spot.
But considering all we have to work with comparing the two was this last pre-season game, VanVleet seems like he’s the starting shooting guard, for now.