Game No. 12: Pacers 95, Raptors 90

The Raptors came out like gangbusters without Andrea Bargnani. They attacked the basket, got to the free throw line early, stood tall on defence, and built up a 16-point first half lead (40-24).

When the Pacers finally did start to get it going (went on a 14-2 run), Danny Granger got himself thrown out of the game with his second technical on a really bone-headed play (more on that later). But even without Granger, and even with the Raptors playing their asses off, the Pacers’ major advantage in the talent department started to wear on Toronto, and they slowly chipped away until finally taking over in the fourth quarter.

Both teams gave a rowdy ACC crowd quite a finish in the fourth, but in the end, Jamaal Magloire just didn’t have enough left in him to even hit mesh on free throws, and the Raptors just didn’t have enough to pull out a W.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- The first quarter-and-a-half was probably the best 18 minutes of basketball I’ve seen the Raptors play since opening night in Cleveland. What I found encouraging is that they were able to get out and run on offence and were able to execute an efficient offence (they were shooting over 60 per cent midway through the second quarter) without sacrificing anything on the defensive end. Obviously, they weren’t able to continue that lights out offence against a pretty good defensive team, but it was nice to see some balanced play.

2- DeMar DeRozan. Finally, DeMar bounces back with a solid game. After five mostly depressing performances, DeRozan came out and attacked from the opening tip. It’s disappointing that his 14 first quarter points only resulted in 23 total points, but it was DeMar’s first above average game in a while, so it was a welcomed sight. Hopefully he can build on this performance and string some games together. I’d also like to see him maintain his aggressiveness and focus for a full 48 minutes.

3- Ed Davis. I wrote earlier on Friday that Bargnani going down is a golden opportunity for Davis to show us something after a bit of a slow start to his sophomore season. Overall, I liked his game tonight (six points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block), but there is no reason Davis should have had a two-of-10 night from the field. I get that Ed’s probably never going to be a big time offensive threat, and I’m okay with that. But part of what impressed me last season was how he was able to pile up some points despite offensive limitations, and it was because he was so efficient around the basket. This season, Davis is now shooting 49 per cent, which isn’t bad, but it should be much better. He’s simply missed way too many “gimmies” around the hoop.

Ed Davis is a good rebounder and a good defender who rarely makes careless plays or poor decisions on the floor and always plays within himself. He’s only 22-years-old, so there’s no reason he can’t become a great rebounder and a great defender in the NBA. If he can use his basketball IQ on the offensive end and get back to being super efficient around his offensive comfort zone, there’s also no reason he can’t become at least an average offensive presence in the post.

4- Danny Granger’s bone-headed play. Most of the time, I’m fine with trash-talk, taunting and things getting nasty, and actually wish NBA refs would let the players play. But in this case, the Pacers were coming back, had all of the momentum, and arguably their best player was already playing with one technical foul to his name. So why in the hell would Granger even risk being tossed with such a bone-headed, careless, useless decision? We get it, it was a nice block, but you just ended up making yourself look like a much bigger fool than the guy you were trying to show up.

5- With how hard the Raptors played on Friday night, it is an absolute shame that they ended up losing this ball game because of poor free throw shooting (20-of-32 from the stripe) and an offensive rebound allowed after a missed Pacers free throw that should have given the Raptors a chance to win the game on the final possession.

I’ll say this about that finish. Dwane Casey made a mistake having Jamaal Magloire on the floor for a potential game-tying possession (that ended up in two embarrassing free throw attempts), and as much as I love the job Casey has done with this young team, I’m fine with him taking heat for his big mistake. But what I don’t like is that some people I heard from and saw tweeting piled it on Casey and talked about how hard the Raps media should let him have it, when I distinctly recall Jay Triano making poor coaching decisions about once a quarter (instead of once ever 12 games) and being defended by what I presume are just hardcore nationalists. You know, those same nationalists who refuse to call what Jamaal Magloire did tonight pathetic. Yes, he rebounded, played defence and hustled, as he always does, he’s a proud Torontonian/Canadian and I’m sure he feels awful for what happened. But don’t pull punches when a professional athlete deserves to be dumped on. Call it like it is. And what it is, is pathetic.

6- If you didn’t see Scott’s pre-game thread earlier, just wanted to send out a big thank you to Complex magazine for naming us the best Raptors blog out there, and of course, wanted to thank you, our readers, for your loyalty. It’s obviously not easy to continually support or find creative ways to cover a perennially underwhelming team, but in general, I think Raptors fans and RaptorBlog does a pretty good job. If you’ve been with RaptorBlog since day one, when Scott launched it 10 years ago, then thanks for your incredible loyalty. If you’ve just joined recently or even this season, thanks for giving us a chance, and hopefully we can continue to provide you with content that keeps you coming back for more. This team will become respectable some day (possibly as soon as next season). In the mean time, we’ll keep elevating our game here at RaptorBlog. Thanks again, and if you haven’t already, ‘like’ our RaptorBlog facebook page to keep up to date on all things Raptors.

As I’ve said before, whether you’re cheering for over-achievement this season or just waiting for the ping pong balls to drop in May, one way or another, Let’s Go Raptors!

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 41 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 7-11 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Stl

Pacers Player of the Game: George Hill – 31 Min, 22 Pts, 7-11 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 6-6 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 5 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO

Goat of the Game (first time I’ve chosen a G.O.G. this season): Jamaal Magloire – 21 Min, 1 Pts, 0-2 FG, 1-4 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Blk, 3 TO