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Fans enjoy NBA action as Raptors overtake Clippers, 121-113

Hawai’i basketball fans again showed just how much they love their live NBA action — even if the Lakers and Kobe Bryant are not involved — as 8,018 of them cheered enthusiastically throughout the Toronto Raptors’ 121-113 preseason victory over the Los Angeles Clippers late Sunday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center.

This was despite the newly adopted “home” team losing and reportedly up to almost 2,000 fans being delayed entering the arena, some as late as the beginning of the third period due to a massive bottleneck at the gates caused by tightened NBA security protocol. All of Sunday’s ticket-holding fans who missed the first period can exchange their scanned ticket from Sunday for a ticket to Tuesday’s 7 p.m. rematch at the SSC ticket windows, per availability during business hours (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

“No. 1, we apologize, the building apologizes,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after game. “Having said that, if they come back Tuesday, they’ll get a ticket and they’ll be able to get in. Now, let’s talk about basketball.”

Most fans will probably say they got their money’s worth in that regard, as they were rewarded with a rare close-up look at NBA stars like the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry — all of whom played most of the first half and provided their share of entertaining moments. Jordan had the biggest highlight early in the third period when he took a sweet feed from Patrick Beverly, soared through the middle of the lane and threw down a monstrous slam dunk before striking an emphatic pose in front of the cheering fans behind the basket.

Griffin scored 18 points in 20 minutes, including two 3-pointers and a couple of strong-yet-acrobatic finishes under the hoop. Lowry scored 17 points with four assists, and DeRozan showed tremendous preseason hustle by diving head first into press row to save a ball from going out of bounds.

The crowd also got to witness the NBA debut of heralded Clippers rookie combo guard Milos Teodosic, a former Serbian star who was FIBA Europe Player of the Year in 2010 and voted the “best non-NBA player in the world” by NBA coaches in 2016 before joining the Clippers as a free agent this past July 10. Teodosic played almost 25 minutes off the bench and finished with eight assists, including a spectacular no-look bounce pass from the right wing to Jordan under the basket, leading to an easy slam dunk.

“I don’t feel that good, because we lost,” Teodosic said. “I know it is a friendly game, but I don’t like losing the games. Of course I am happy I got to step on the court and play my first NBA game, but I’m not too happy because we lost.”

Rivers said Teodosic’s teammates have already welcomed his presence.

“Everybody that can score, catches up to a passer,” Rivers said. “He wants to give you the ball.”

It was actually the Hawai’i debut for both the Clippers and Raptors franchises, following more than two decades of off-and-on preseason games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers, including Bryant’s farewell appearance in 2015.

Rivers and others said they were impressed with Hawai’i’s fans on Sunday.

“They were great, they were terrific,” Rivers said. “I thought there was great energy in the building, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Said Teodosic: “It’s nice, the atmosphere was great, and we really enjoyed it.”

The Clippers organization clearly did their part as the designated “home team” to win fans over, showing highlight videos on the Jumbotron and having an in-house emcee plus mascot “Chuck the Condor” keeping fans entertained during breaks in the action. And it seemed to work.

But even when the Raptors took the lead for good early in the fourth period and eventually pulled away, the fans stayed enthusiastic and appreciative until the final horn.

“It was great, I thought they were very into the game, really supportive of both teams,” Griffin said. “It seems like they know the game. It was fun, we had a lot of fun.”

Gates will open at 5 p.m. for Tuesday’s game, and fans are encouraged to show up early and minimize the number of personal items they bring in, as items again will be searched upon entering the arena.

(Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

7 Comments

  1. 6-5 Fletcher Tynen of Filipino ancestry, who had offer from UH, commits to Boston U. Also, 6-9 Jordan Guest to Boston. Earlier, 6-8 Jacob Eyman committed to UTEP.

  2. We seem to be striking out a lot in the recruiting game. However, it just takes one homerun to change the program. A guy like Kamaka Hepa could do that.

  3. Hepa would be a huge get, but don’t think Hawaii is even in play. Reportedly, he’s visited Texas and Gonzaga, and is considering Oklahoma, Oregon State and Washington, among others.

  4. Hepa is a 4/5 star player so likely he won’t even talk to us but we can dream.

  5. Kamaka Hepa is now a 3-4 star player. I honestly don’t think he’s at the level that most schools expected him to be at at this point in his career. Expectations were too high. After all, he was a 6’6” high school freshman killing it in Alaska. Now he’s a 6’9” high school senior doing pretty well in Oregon. I don’t think he has any official offers yet and I believe some of the bigger schools aren’t interested anymore. Reminds me of Negus Webster-Chan – lot of expectations that unfortunately never materialized. Nevertheless, would be a great player for UH.

  6. According to several sites, Hepa has many offers, including from Gonzaga, Texas, USC.

  7. UH has dropped off some of the website lists of schools for Hepa.

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