The Toronto Raptors faced their toughest test of the pre-season and were able to meet the challenge with a fervor.
After a lacklustre performance on Tuesday, Toronto appeared much more interested in the contest on Wednesday, winning in double overtime, 119-116, over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre.
The victory was an obvious positive, but what was most encouraging is the level of intensity that Toronto played at – especially because it was the second game of a back-to-back.
The team had fatigue issues last year on the tail end of consecutive games, but that was not apparent against the 76ers. While it is true that minutes are spread out far more during the pre-season, the deep rotation that head coach Jay Triano appears to be going with seems like it will pay dividends in keeping the team fresh.
Andrea Bargnani had his best game of the exhibition schedule, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. What’s significant about Bargnani’s numbers is that he was getting it done in a different manner than he normally does.
The big Italian actually played big, doing the majority of his damage with his back to the basket, using turn around moves to setup his jumper and a much-improved looking drop step that allowed him to get to the cup.
However, his overall shooting woes continued, going only 6-for-22. He may have got the kinks out at last, though, because as the game progressed into the second half and beyond, his stroke looked much better than it has in the last three games.
Another Raptor that performed well was point guard Jarrett Jack, who finished with a game-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.
This was Jack’s second start and his play was a pretty loud message to Triano that he deserves to be the regular starter over teammate Jose Calderon.
He has outperformed his Spanish counterpart offensively through the four games that the Raptors have played and has looked better defensively, moving quicker laterally than Calderon, with more active hands.
The Raptors will look to build on these recent revelations Friday against the Boston Celtics.