Archive for the ‘Indiana Pacers’ Category

Kyle Lowry blowing by Steve Nash is something we hope to see at the ACC on January 20

In one of the more anticipated days of the summer for basketball junkies, the NBA announced its’ 2012-2013 schedule on Thursday, and as usual, there are some games that obviously stand out from the rest.

While I doubt the Raptors are featured in many, if any, of those games for the casual NBA fan, we’re here to cater to Raptors fans. And with that, here are the games we think you should circle on the calendar:

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Game No. 58: Pacers 103, Raptors 98

The Pacers are a legitimate threat to win a playoff series in the Eastern Conference, while the Raptors are a surefire lottery team when healthy, so without Andrea Bargnani on the road in Indiana, no one expected much of anything from “Toronto’s other team” playing on Monday night.

Credit the Raptors for fighting to cut a 16-point deficit down to two in the fourth quarter and making the finish somewhat exciting, but did anyone feel the result was ever really in doubt?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- With Andrea Bargnani missing his 27th game of the season with calf issues, Amir Johnson got the nod as Bargnani’s replacement in Toronto’s starting lineup. Amir responded with a solid outing of 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. By and large, Amir has been underwhelming this season, and one of the areas of his game I would have liked to see more of was his improved offence from last season. The 16 points came in a losing effort in a meaningless April game, but nonetheless, it was nice to see from him against a good opponent.

2- The Raptors’ other power forward, Ed Davis, put up some very solid numbers in very limited minutes, again. Davis posted a double-double of 11 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) and 10 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. As I mentioned in Friday’s recap, Davis has been quietly picking up his play of late, but hasn’t been rewarded with extended minutes yet. In his last six games, Ed’s averaged about seven points and eight rebounds in just over 20 minutes. It’s too late into the season to be convinced one way or another by a good individual stretch or a slump, but I’d still like to see Davis get some major minutes down the stretch, especially with Bargnani out.

3- One guy we know was in Dwane Casey’s temporary dog house was James Johnson, who has now played two games since his benching. Johnson was active when he hit the floor tonight in Indy, and came up with two big blocks, but he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since his return to the lineup on Sunday in Oklahoma City. I wasn’t expecting James to put up huge numbers, but I was hoping his play forced him back into the starting five over 10-day man Alan Anderson. I don’t know that he’s done that.

4-Leandro Barbosa was a factor for the Pacers in this one, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes off the bench for Indy. When the Raptors traded Leandro at the deadline, a few people discussed the possibility of Toronto bringing him back as an unrestricted free agent this off-season, which isn’t a stretch considering Bryan Colangelo’s relationship with the Brazilian Blur and how much he reportedly loved the city. As it stands right now, the Raptors have no guaranteed guard scoring punch off the bench for next season, as Jerryd Bayless isn’t certain to be back, and you can’t count on Gary Forbes for consistent production. If the Raps are still looking for that bench production in July, I’d be fine with bringing Barbosa back at a reasonable price. As frustrating as his shot selection sometimes is and as out of control as he sometimes plays, Barbosa has game-changing offensive ability off of the bench, and that’s something teams quickly realize they need when they don’t have it.

5- 11,021. That’s how many people came out to watch this game in Indiana. That’s it. In short, this is mind boggling to me. The Pacers used to have a great fan-base during their run of contention through the 1990′s and early 2000′s, and while I know the 2011-2012 edition of the team is a mere shadow of the Reggie Miller-led squad of days gone by, they are still a legitimate playoff team and one that can make some post-season noise over the next couple of years. They may not have a superstar, but they’re talented enough, they’re deep, they work hard on the court, they supposedly have one of the nicer arenas in the NBA and they currently sit third in the Eastern Conference at 35-22, winning 19 of 27 games at home. And yet the Pacers sit 29th in the Association with an average attendance of 14,209. Is ‘disappointing’ a strong enough word to describe the lack of hometown support this Pacers team is receiving?

6- One thing I mentioned on Friday night when the Raptors blew what looked to be a sure win against the Cavaliers is how quickly a would-be four game winning streak could turn into a lengthy losing streak. Losses against the Cavs, Thunder, and now Pacers have the streak at three already, and if you look at the Raps’ upcoming schedule and consider that Andrea Bargnani is currently sidelined, you can see why Tank Nation has suddenly been reinvigorated. The team’s next five games are all against playoff opponents (vs. 76ers, vs. Celtics, @ Hawks, vs. Hawks, @ Heat) and their last road game of the season is in Milwaukee, where the Bucks could be playing for their playoff lives. From a realistic standpoint, a game at Detroit and the season finale against the Nets may be Toronto’s final two opportunities for wins this season.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 33 Min, 16 Pts, 7-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1-2 FT, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Pacers Player of the Game: George Hill – 36 Min, 18 Pts, 5-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 7-7 FT, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Indiana: Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is will miss tonight’s game with “calf tightness”. Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Indiana: No injuries reported.

Is this recurring calf injury situation with Andrea Bargnani concerning anyone else? I know it’s good for the tanking cause if he sits out the rest of the season, but assuming this is a legit injury, it’s the third time this season he’s missed games due to a calf injury. If he doesn’t play another game this season, that will mean he missed more than half the Raptors’ games due to calf issues. If the Raptors are finally going to be competitive next season, they’ll need their “franchise player” in the lineup much more frequently.

Tonight’s game should have a fairly predictable result, as the Pacers have beaten the Raptors six straight times at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers are third in the East going into tonight, but they’re only a game ahead sixth-placed Orlando so Indiana will be fighting to retain a hold on home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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And now, yet another reminder of how important it is to craft your questions carefully at a Gregg Popovich media scrum.

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

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Indiana: Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani, Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza are all day-to-day.

Indiana: No injuries reported.

The Raptors matched up pretty well with the Pacers when they last met on December 28 — they were within three points before David West put the game away with a jumper with nine seconds left. In the rematch, Bargnani will probably sit out the game with a calf injury. Since he’s the Raptors’ leading scorer and the Pacers are currently fourth in the league in Defensive Efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), points will probably be difficult to come by for the hometown crew.

I’m merely guessing that Ed Davis will start if Bargnani doesn’t play. If Dwane Casey elects to send out a starting lineup that includes both Rasual Butler and Jamaal Magloire, we can pretty much assume the Raptors will be trailing by double-digits before the end of the first quarter.

A number of people mentioned the Pacers as a dark horse in the Eastern Conference this season, and it turns out there was a good reason for that. Roy Hibbert has developed into an imposing defensive post presence while Danny Granger and Paul George provide quality D on the perimeter. Ten games into the season, they’ve scored 33 more points from the free throw line than their opponents — when you consider that they’ve scored 32 more points than their opponents overall, that free throw disparity is a significant reason for their 7-3 record. Indiana outscored Toronto by 12 at the line in December, so that’s something to watch for tonight.

Random thoughts…

  • Since Complex just named this the best Raptors blog, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that if you pay this blog a similar compliment and I find out about it, not only is there a good chance I’ll link your site here and on Twitter, but you might get linked by TheScore’s Twitter account with 46,000 followers. If you thought I was above this kind of pandering, you overestimated me.
  • If you’re a Canadian NBA fan, there’s a good chance you tune into Court Surfing on theScore every week. I usually post a funny video at the end of these game threads, but the new Court Surfing theme song by JD Era is so good that I have to give it some exposure here: