The future is here, and it’s at the center position. The Toronto Raptors fell to the Indiana Pacers in a heart-breaker, losing 90-88; however, if there was one positive to take from the loss, it was the play of rookie Jonas Valanciunas.
The Raptors proved that they still lack a closer, however, as they couldn’t hold their late game lead. DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani both struggled down the stretch. Kyle Lowry impressed as well with a 21-8-7 stat line along with an incredible five steals, but he couldn’t come up clutch either.
It’s unfair to put a damper on Valanciunas’ performance because of the loss, considering it’s unfair to ask a rookie center with limited offensive skills to carry the team through crunch time. Regardless, Valanciunas dazzled the ACC with 12 points and 10 rebounds, six of which came off the offensive glass.
While that was quite an impressive debut for a rookie, Valanciunas still made his fair share of mistakes. Valanciunas seemed to be a bit jumpy and nervous at the beginning of the game, and took some ill-advised shots. He was also in the wrong place at the wrong time quite often defensively.
It is clear that there will be a learning curve for Valanciunas, just as there will be with other rookies. However, if it wasn’t already clear before, as long as Valanciunas is starting, he should be able to contend for rookie of the year honors, and will continue to strengthen his game as the year progresses.
It’s disappointing that even after playing well, the Raptors leave Toronto with a sour taste in their mouth. The Raptors head to Brooklyn to take on the Brooklyn Nets in their home opener on Saturday in the brand new Barclay’s Center. This game could be featured on national television, and it could be a great opportunity for the Raps to get back on the map.
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