The Toronto Raptors were missing 40% of their starting five against the powerhouse Indiana Pacers, but shrugged off the injury-induced absences of Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson. The other regular starters all scored 20+ points, and the bench made a huge contribution. The Raps kept Pace(r) all game, then forged ahead in crunch time. The Pacers were forced to foul, and Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan made them pay. A sellout Air Canada Centre crowd was treated to perhaps the best game of this amazing season.
I’m hard-pressed to express accurately how significant this victory is. The Raps proved to themselves they have the depth to handle a pair of the league’s best teams, meaning that the win over Houston was not a fluke due to the Rockets being short-handed. Indiana has no such excuse. In an effort to dig themselves out of the funk they are currently in, coach Frank Vogel leaned heavily on his starters. It didn’t pay off, as they looked gassed in Q4, which the Raps “won” by 8. Dwane Casey, on the other hand, stuck to his belief in the power of his rotation, and got excellent play from the likes of Nando De Colo and Chuck Hayes.
DeMar deserves a special shout-out. He scored 20 points, and added 9 assists. Off the dribble, he continually drew the defense to him like flies to honey, then dished to Jonas Valanciunas, TRoss, Greivis Vasquez, Hayes(!) and De Colo. The Raps’ ball movement was frequently excellent, and the team totaled 23 assists on 40 fields goals. De Colo looks very comfortable with his teammates; I was impressed with his excellent ability to pass to where a moving Rap was going to be, so they didn’t lose momentum. The speedy TRoss took full advantage of one such pass on a memorable hoop-and-harm off the fast break.
TRoss drained half of Toronto’s 10 made 3-balls. He also attacked the basket with confidence, and ended the game with 24. JV was 10 of 14, including several mid-range jumpers. The importance of him stretching his range out to the foul line can’t be overstated. He’s used ball fakes a great deal this season, but they’ve had little effect, as defenders haven’t seen him make longer shots. They went in tonight, as did several excellent back-downs on the formidable Roy Hibbert.
For the Pacers, Paul George led with 26 points, including 3 of 4 from distance, and Raptor killer David West had 21.
Toronto now finishes the season with 6 games against sub-.500 teams, starting Saturday night in Milwaukee against the hapless Bucks. Here’s hoping Lowry and Johnson get another night off, and are able to return at full strength for Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia.
Tags: Toronto Raptors