You thought you had seen everything already with this Raptors team, didn’t you?. Injuries, multiple blown double digit leads in the fourth quarter, triple-overtime losses, etc. Well how about an upset of the Pacers in Indiana despite scoring a franchise low five points in the fourth quarter a night after that aforementioned triple-overtime loss? It makes little sense, but we’ll take it.
Now here are some thoughts on the game:
- First and foremost, how about the massive effort from Jose Calderon? Many of us usually pick apart Calderon’s flaws, but he was fantastic out there tonight, recording his first career triple-double of 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a game where the Raptors desperately needed it. Calderon left it all on the court in Indiana, logging 39 minutes less than 24 hours after hitting the 50-minute mark against the Jazz. He committed four turnovers, but even I’ll say that no one in their right mind should be criticizing Calderon’s game tonight.
By the way, who had money on Calderon recording a triple-double before Kyle Lowry this season?
- Speaking about feats of endurance, DeMar DeRozan followed up his ridiculous 60 minutes of action on Monday with another 40 minutes of hard nosed basketball on Tuesday. DeRozan’s statline of 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting and five rebounds won’t raise any eyebrows, but DeMar brought it again tonight and contributed to a grimy victory that the Raptors needed badly. And I don’t care how repetitive I sound – DeRozan deserved at least four extra trips to the free throw line tonight.
He’s going to get these calls eventually, right?
- I bet you can guess who won’t get any credit from me tonight. Andrea Bargnani was nowhere to be found in Indiana, posting just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting to go along with only three rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of floor time. Bargnani has frustrated us for years, but I can honestly say that I can’t remember a more uninspiring stretch of basketball from the guy. It’s been brutal, and I can’t take any more of it, especially when the rest of the bigs on the team are busting their ass out there.
- Speaking of bigs busting their asses, how about Jonas Valanciunas tonight? Nine points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in just 22 minutes of action that included him thoroughly outplaying Roy Hibbert for long stretches of the game. Once again, Valanciunas’ presence inside played a big part in the Raptors building a somewhat comfortable lead, and yet once again, his efforts weren’t rewarded with adequate playing time. The only thing holding the rookie back from another double-double against the Pacers was Dwane Casey himself, who chose to ride a struggling and lifeless Andrea Bargnani down the stretch with Amir Johnson instead of rolling with Amir and Jonas.
- As much as I don’t understand some of Casey’s rotations or his limited use of a clearly ready Valanciunas, I can honestly say that I don’t think an average NBA coach gets this effort or this victory out of a tired, shorthanded group of players like Casey did tonight. Call it cliche, call it blind faith, call it whatever you want, but I really believe it. The “Casey Effect” still lives.
- The Casey Effect was obviously most noticeable last season on the defensive end, and one of the things that’s worried a lot of us about the Raptors’ start to this season is how much of a step back the defence has taken. Well for one night at least, those worries were put to bed, as the Pacers were held to just 32 per cent shooting from the field. Nowhere was the defensive effort more impressive than in the fourth quarter, where the Raptors scored a pitiful five points on just one made field goal, and yet were still able to hold on for the victory because they held the Pacers to just 14 points in the quarter themselves.
The Raps seemed to be getting most of the bounces tonight, as I lost count of how many Pacers shots bounced in and out. Could you say they got a bit lucky on the defensive end? Sure, but how many of those bounces have gone the other way through the first two weeks of the season? Exactly. Let’s just hope this game was an indication that the bounces will start going Toronto’s way for a while, though I’m not holding my breath.
- Singular plays often get lost in the grand scheme of an entire 48-minute game, but how big was John Lucas III’s three-pointer at the end of the third quarter? The shot, which came with just 1.1 seconds left in the quarter, was the difference between an eight point lead and an 11-point lead heading into the fourth, and if Lucas doesn’t hit it, the Raptors probably end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard again after another fourth quarter collapse.
- Terrence Ross had an impressive offensive stretch in the first half that had Raptors fans giddily peering into the future. The Raptors’ “other rookie” finished with only seven points in about 13 minutes, but he’s slowly beginning to find himself on the offensive end, and that’s certainly encouraging.
- While we all celebrate an unexpected Raptors road victory, Pacers fans are likely lamenting an unexpected home loss for their team, because make no mistake, this was a bad loss for Indiana. A banged up, tired, inferior team comes into town, they practically hand you the game in the fourth quarter, and you still find a way to come away with the loss. The Pacers are now 3-5 on the season, haven’t looked sharp yet in the handful games I’ve watched them play and will be without Danny Granger until February. They’re talented enough to overcome the adversity, but they’re also looking very capable of having a disastrous down year after being the feel good story of the Eastern Conference last season.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 13 Pts, 5/10 FG, 2/2 3PT, 1/1 FT, 10 Reb, 10 Ast, 4 TO in 39:07
Pacers Player of the Game: George Hill – 18 Pts, 8/20 FG, 0/4 3PT, 2/2 FT, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO in 36:55
The term “character win” gets tossed around too lightly in pro sports, but it’s a more than valid description for the Raptors’ second W of the season. Between coming off of Monday’s triple-overtime thriller, still missing Kyle Lowry and being without two other regular rotation guys, the Raps had no business even being in this game, let alone winning it, and if they suddenly start taking a few surprising wins here and there, we’ll all look back at this random Tuesday night in Indiana as the turning point.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is suddenly a playoff team or that everything’s peachy because of one upset in Indiana, but the difference between grabbing this win as opposed to sitting around at 1-7 for a few days before rolling into Boston on Saturday is huge, or at least it is to me and a boatload of other Raptors fans. We’ve been through a lot in the early stages of this season. Let’s enjoy this one for a few days.
2-6 never felt so good…