To enjoy a puncher’s chance against a strong and balanced Indiana Pacer team, the Toronto Raptors need to have their #1 unit firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, that was not the case last night in Indianapolis. DeMar DeRozan wasn’t hitting his jump shots, but the Raps played brilliantly in the first quarter anyway, rolling up a 32-22 lead. However, the second unit had to come in at some point, and they were dreadful, missing shots by the boatload. DD’s shot didn’t benefit by his time on the bench, or anything else, and he finished the game a miserable 2 of 15. Rudy Gay’s best game of the season, and perhaps as a Rap, was wasted.
The Raptors coughed up the lead in a dreary third quarter in which they managed 13 points, one fewer than Q2. The Raps did mount a comeback in the fourth quarter, whittling a 14-point deficit to 6 when Terrence Ross hit a 3-ball with a minute to play. Toronto’s faint hope of a miracle was damaged when Indiana responded with a bucket. Steve Novak then missed a three, Hibbert grabbed the board, and we were out of time.
Dwane Casey’s stubbornness about playing a small lineup was not the problem in this loss. Jonas Valanciunas played 36+ minutes, and though he didn’t have the offensive game we might have liked (he rushed several shots, which is not surprising considering he was taking them with shot-blocker Roy Hibbert in his face), he didn’t look overmatched either. Hibbert was more efficient than I’ve ever seen him, pouring in 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Some nights the other guy is better. Indiana’s other force, small forward Paul George, didn’t have the range early, but hurt the Raps later by taking the ball inside on his way to 23 points.
While the Raps enjoyed effective play from Kyle Lowry (8 assists, several of them spectacular, and 12 points) and Amir Johnson (a double-double), Rudy was superb. Pouring in 30 points on 12 of 26 shooting was wonderful, and he also added 3 each blocks and steals.
This game was a disappointment for Raps fans, but hardly a surprise. Indiana is chock-full of youthful, talented veterans, and are a legitimate championship contender. Toronto is still trying to find its identity as a team.
The Raps are home tonight against a team which was expected to be bad, and is, the 0-6 Utah Jazz.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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