Archive for the ‘Indiana Pacers’ Category

Indiana Pacers

I’m not going to lie. It’s getting harder to motivate myself to create these game threads. This has become the most depressing Raptors season to cover since the hellish Kevin O’Neill Era in 2003-04 — and back then I was still a wet-behind-the-ears blogger hungry to make my mark in the world of sports pseudo-journalism.

How can I get myself interested in this team again? Should I root for them to keep losing so they approach the NBA record of 23 consecutive losses set by the Vancouver Grizzlies in their inaugural 1995-96 season and tied by the Denver Nuggets in 1997-98? There’s probably not much point because the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost their last 20 games so they’re probably going to get there first. (Fun fact: Current Cavs coach Byron Scott was the sixth man on that record-setting Grizzlies team.)

That leaves me with little choice but to focus on the ongoing development of young players like Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless. Amir scored a career-high 24 points against Milwaukee on Friday, Ed notched his fourth double-double of the season (15 points, 11 rebounds) against Minnesota on Saturday, and Jerryd finished two rebounds away from a triple-double against the Grizzlies last Monday. So there is some hope that things could get better, right?

The Indiana Pacers are enduring their own lost season and they decided to take action by firing coach Jim O’Brien after they lost to the Bulls by 21 on Saturday. While O’Brien was obviously fired because the Pacers weren’t playing up to expectations, the recent derailment of Roy Hibbert’s career had to have played a large part as well. He’s averaged just 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from the field in January. On Saturday, he played 21 minutes, scored just two points and grabbed five rebounds. Considering it was only a couple months ago that he appeared on his way to being a top five center in this league, the decline has been shocking.

The Raptors have their own struggling center, of course. So I suppose the key matchup of the night will be “The Battle of the Beleaguered Big Men.” There’s my hook, and I’m sticking with it.

Injury report

Toronto: Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza remain out of the lineup.

Indiana: Brandon Rush is out until mid-February while Tyler Hansbrough is listed as questionable with pneumonia.

Five questions

1. Is it time to officially proclaim DeMar DeRozan as the primary scoring option on this team?

2. Will crashing the boards be the Raptors’ key to breaking this losing streak? They were outrebounded by an average of 7.2 boards per game over those 11 losses.

3. Will we see some extended playing time for intriguing Pacers rookie Paul George under interim coach Frank Vogel?

4. Do you think the Raptors should fire Jay Triano if they exceed a certain number of consecutive losses?

5. Is whoever puts together the Raptors’ official game notes unaware that Jim O’Brien got fired yesterday? (See page two.)

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Indiana: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert

In tribute to the end of the Jim O’Brien Era in Indiana, our pregame song is “Fired” by Ben Folds. Also, the key line in the song is something many of you probably thought while watching the Raptors’ deplorable display against the T-Wolves on Saturday: “Every one of you is fired.”

Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors

Two days, two different opponents, similar crappy results. Teams that can shoot the long ball are discovering that they can have a field day against the Raptors’ lackluster perimeter defence. Jay Triano claimed after the game that he specifically told his guys to “Take away their threes” but the Pacers still went 13-for-26 from long range, led by Brandon Rush’s six treys off the bench.

I didn’t bother putting together a video of the Pacers making open three-balls because I already did that for Sunday’s loss to the Knicks and I’ll probably have plenty of footage to choose from when they play the Knicks again on Wednesday. The Raptors are currently 27th in the NBA in three-point percentage and 28th in three-pointers made, while they’re 26th in opponent three-point percentage and 20th in opponent three-pointers made. Twenty-one games into the season, the Raptors have allowed 111 more points off three-pointers than they’ve scored, an average of 5.3 points per game.

Along with their outside shooting, what really impresses me about Indiana is their ball movement. They got those open looks last night not just because of Toronto’s lousy D, but because they move the ball intelligently and crisply. And nobody stands out more in that department than Roy Hibbert, who tied a season-high with six assists last night — all but one of them resulting in a layup or dunk. His court vision and passing touch is truly remarkable for such a giant of a man, so my only video clip for this post is a compilation of last night’s assists. Hey, rather than dwell on how the Raptors befouled their linens, I’m choosing to appreciate a player who plays the right way.

Yep, we coulda had that guy. Oh well, at least T.J. Ford didn’t go off last night. I’m not sure I could have handled watching the Raptors get dominated by Hibbert, Danny Granger AND Ford.

They tipped off in Indiana, and the Raptors were instantaneously 8-13. Seriously, this one falls under the “over before it began” category.

Toronto has been pretty consistent in responding to a poor effort with a solid performance this season. That wasn’t the case tonight at Canseco Fieldhouse.

I’ll admit that I found myself on the road in a vehicle for the first quarter, but here’s what the game sounded like on the radio. “Raptors pull-up jumper no good, Pacers back the other way, three-ball falls. Raptors turnover, Pacers come back, count the bucket and the foul.”

By the time I got to a televsion for the second quarter, the Raps were down 13 and mentally checked out. The second q was even worse, as Indiana torched Toronto for 37 points and held a 24-point lead at the half.

The third quarter defence was decent, and provided Toronto a glimmer of hope that they could perhaps make it interesting, but their pathetic offence and constant jump-shooting negated that opportunity.

Two things stood out tonight. One, the Raptors looked like a YMCA team when defending the three-point line for the second straight game. And two, the entire roster, top to bottom, thought they could get by with ill-advised jump-shooting.

At one point in the third, Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis (the same three guys who fuelled the Raptors run Jay Triano ruined on Sunday) defended and attacked their way to a 10-1 run, and the Raps cut a 28-point lead to just 15.

Out of a timeout, the Raps responded with a Leandro Barbosa jumper followed by a Sonny Weems jumper. In a matter of moments it was back to a 23-point deficit.

There’s nothing more to say about this disgraceful effort. You would have to hope the last two ball games are just part of the natural process when dealing with a young team. But the truth is, a couple more games like this, and most will consider the recent success a blip on the radar of a horrible team.

I’m definitely not expecting a win in New York on Wednesday, but we need to see a genuine effort from this team to  believe they still “want it.”  Tonight, no one could honestly mistake that performance for an “effort” of any sorts.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 30 Min, 21 Pts, 8-12 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 1 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Pacers Player of the Game: Danny Granger – 31 Min, 21 Pts, 9-16 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 9 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Sonny Weems – 19 Min, 8 Pts, 3-10 FG, 2-2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO

Roy Hibbert

Hey, the Indiana Pacers are sorta not half-bad this season! Even after a two-game losing skid, they’re sitting at .500, which will definitely be good enough for a playoff spot in the East. What’s their secret? They’re doing it with defence, and you can give a lot of the credit for that to Roy Hibbert.

The Pacers are eighth in the NBA in Defensive Rating with 103.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, their opponent field goal percentage is third-best at .431 and they’ve held opponents to a .587 shooting mark at the rim, which is second-best in the league. Clearly, his off-season work with Bill Walton and training with MMA fighters has paid off. Since the Raptors are tied for last in the league in three-point shooting, they might have a tough time scoring at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight — inside or outside.

Injury report

Toronto: Peja Stojakovic is questionable once again because of his swollen knee.

Indiana: Clean slate for the Pacers.

Five questions

1. Is Roy Hibbert now the best passing center this side of Brad Miller?

2. Are you happy that T.J. Ford is getting playing time again? (I know one guy who definitely is.)

3. Have you noticed how quietly terrible 10th overall pick Paul George has been? In eight games, he’s averaged 16.5 minutes, 4.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists with .341 field goal percentage.

4. Will the Raptors get burned by the long ball again? Indiana is fourth in the league in three point attempts.

5. Will Andrea Bargnani have a great scoring night with less-than-daunting Josh McRoberts guarding him?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Indiana: Darren Collison, Brandon Rush, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert

Tonight’s pregame song is “Beat Boy” by South African musical sensation Die Antwoord, because the Pacers are kind of an unusual team and Die Antwoord is, well… if you don’t already know, now you know.