Let’s call it what it is: a good convincing win at home, except nobody’s looking to get convinced anymore. People have already made their mind up about this season and the only thing left to do is pick out some things that might be handy next year. Three things came about from this game. 1) Bargnani is on his way to something half-decent, 2) Pops is a high-energy player that plays within himself and could be a serviceable backup and 3) Maybe, just maybe, Jose Calderon isn’t terrible and could be an improved player next year if he stays healthy. Granted, that’s a big “if” since wear and tear is a factor for every player and his injuries seem to be stemming from just that.
The TJ/Jose battle hasn’t been as intense or fun to watch as one might expect, it’s probably because we’re starting to realize that they’re both mediocre PGs that don’t deserve to be the headlining acts of any play. We had a nice thing going with them in Toronto for two years, unfortunately the media and fans made them feel that they’re starter-quality players which eventually led to the split. They were great as a tandem, on their own they’re mediocre. Don’t tell that to TJ though, he came off guns blazing and looking to attack in the first quarter and got six points out of his aggressiveness, all on some pretty determined drives which made you think, if only Jose could add that to his game. Over the last two games Calderon’s finally making his 20-footer jumper and he had two of them in the first which Indiana and my man Brandon Rush might’ve even ran away with if it weren’t for Anrdrea Bargnani who is the reason I still watch the games.
Doesn’t matter who won, what the score was, what streak was snapped and who did what, the main thing I took from this one is Bargnani showing us that he just might be able to translate the talent we know he has into something meaningful. He had 8 first quarter points, looked comfortable on his jumpers and had a sweet drive to the rim against Murphy that Bosh should be envious of. You don’t normally associate Bargnani with points-in-the-paint but despite his perimeter oriented game, he’s the Raptor most likely to get you a score by taking his man off the dribble and finishing properly. And by properly I mean not getting blocked, not throwing it up there like its a hot potato and not letting the defense change your shot to the point that its a shot they want you to take. He’s always got that serious look on his face which says, “WTF man, let’s do this already”. Very much unlike the pointless yelling and screaming, fist-pumping and hand-signs that others on this team do regardless of quarter and score.
Danny Granger returned to the Pacer lineup after a two-week absence. Indiana’s probably thinking to get him warmed up against weak opposition like Toronto for their stretch run and you can’t blame them. Fortunately for us he had one of his worst games of the season, his handle looked rusty, he was unsure on his jumpers and didn’t look to get his teammates involved. I thought he was selfishly trying to get back in the flow of the game and it backfired resulting in a 3-11 night and a game-worst -21. Shawn Marion and Anthony Parker’s defense had something to do with it but he was bumping into people more than AltRaps at the Lower Brass Customer Appreciation Party. Granger summed up his game like so:
I played 18 minutes, I thought I had played 32.
Indiana went through a stretch of hitting four straight threes in the second quarter, the last two coming courtesy of T.J Ford penetration and kick-outs to Troy Murphy who’s defender, Bosh, was nowhere to be found. Murphy was outplaying Bosh by taking off the dribble, checking him on the glass and snuffing his rare drive. Bosh was more than happy to comply with Murphy on offense by clanking his jumpers and if it weren’t for Bargnani and Calderon stepping up and getting the W, the ire of this post-game report would’ve been directed at Bosh. All in all, a very un-Bill Russell like performance by Bosh. He started off 1-8, finished going 5-8 and had 13 rebounds. He struggled like a fish out of water in the first half and when I saw him lazily jogging up the court I wanted to throw a brick at my TV. Luckily, Calderon and Bargnani were there to bail us out, the latter finishing with 27 points on 9-11 shooting and as an entirely unexpected bonus, 9 rebounds.
Those Murphy jumpers were the last we heard from Indiana. The Raptors went on a 16-5 run to close out the second, Calderon hit two more 20-footers, Bargnani hit a three and Bosh got a couple hoops in the paint, one on his best-looking hook shot of the night and the other after Indiana lost track of him for a dunk. T.J Ford was creating for his teammates through his traditional drive ‘n kick but the Pacers just couldn’t apply the finishes and shot 37.6% for the game. Ford then, as per the scouting report, tried to carry the scoring load but shooting over tall trees in the paint will always result in a low-percentage no matter how quick you are to get there. He finished 7-16 for 15 points and 6 (real) assists, not a bad game by any means, but when he’s looking to score first your team isn’t going too far.
Calderon had 16 points on 6-9 and 12 assists. The thing that I was most pleased with was his ability to hit the jumper which if he’s not doing makes him un-contract and un-starter worthy. He had a nice alley-oop to Shawn Marion in the third quarter and hit Pops for a couple nice perfect-height passes on the pick ‘n roll for dunks. Speaking of the third quarter, it was one to remember. Raptors won it 37-19 as Indiana couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean and the Raptors and Bargnani were hitting full stride.
You know how sometimes the shot-clock’s winding down and you know you’re not going to get a good shot off so you give it to someone and he just does something with it. Well, that guy on the Raptors has become Bargnani. You might think it would be Calderon or Bosh but Bargnani’s the guy who seemingly always ends up with the ball with 4 seconds left and he usually tries to do the right thing. Jose’s #1 target might be Bosh but when the sh*t hits the fan, the ball goes to Bargnani. Today his jumper was working and he hit a half-minded three and had a couple drives when the offense had broken down. Two of his three threes came in those situations. Jose only had 5 points in the third but had four assists and upped the tempo of the game by getting us out on the break early which is not what Indiana wanted. He even played some defense on Ford by giving him enough space so that he’d have time to catch up to his drive when it did happen. Ford probably should’ve tried his jumper more often and forced Calderon to come a little closer, but instead he opted for the drive with resolute determination which isn’t always the best.
Jarret Jack was so terrible for them that he may as well have had a green Raptors uniform on. 4-14, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. He couldn’t get the Pacers offense into any kind of rhythm in any quarter and if it weren’t for TJ Ford forcing the issue in the first half this game would’ve been over sooner. Travis Diener for them was far more effective in 20 minutes and probably deserved the 36 Jack got; you could safely say that Jose outplayed all their three PGs put together. Indiana is similar to us in that they have some good pieces on that team but on the whole have been very disappointing. They’ve gotten some big wins against Phoenix, Boston and LA which is a silver lining to their season, we on the other hand don’t have that to hang our hat on.
You know how I really knew Danny Granger wasn’t into this game? He decided to take a charge while standing inside the circle against Shawn Marion and the latter made the most of it. Marion had a miserable scoreless first half with only one rebound but looked like a different player in the third quarter. It’s already been said before but if we honestly implement up-tempo in Toronto, Marion needs to be here. It’s painful watching him try to score off his drive or from short jumpers setup by mild penetration. That’s not his game and that was the difference in the two halves for him. He’s not cutting and flashing like he did in his first few games but that happens to a player when he doesn’t get the ball passed to him over and over again. Still, no excuse for inconsistent effort.
Let’s talk about Pops. 21 points, 8 rebounds and 11-13 FTs. Didn’t see that last stat coming. He knows he’s not a scorer (ahem, Hump), he can jump (ahem, Voskuhl) and he doesn’t play outside of four feet (ahem, Bosh). He understands the ‘roll’ in the pick ‘n roll, takes everything to the rim, tries to break the backboard on every dunk and spins off people when trying to get rebounds. I haven’t seen a Raptor do that since……I’ve never seen a Raptor do that. Let’s give Colangelo some credit, this has turned out to be a nice pickup. The toughness, grit and sheer hustle Pops has displayed isn’t something I expected from a Colangelo signing given his record. Looking forward to him next year. Here’s a Pops quote I thought was funny, he’s talking about Marion here and referring to his dunk on Granger:
I’ve been telling him I want to see some of those highlights I used to see when he was in Phoenix. He keeps telling me he’s old but I told him he’s still got it and, like you saw today, he still does.
He’s Matt Bonner, only stronger. He’s Charles Oakley, only younger, less crazier and people don’t owe him money. He’s Kevin Willis with longer arms. He’s Zan Tabak except the crappy part. He’s Eric Montross except he makes his FTs. He’s Oliver Miller, except good. He’s a sober version of Keon Clark. He’s JO except 96.46 times cheaper ($21,352,500/$221,360). He’s a darker version of Jelani McCoy. He’s Mamadou N’Diaye except he’s not injured. He’s John Thomas….no wait. He’s no John Thomas.
The score at the end of the third was 90-69 which meant the fourth quarter was garbage-time. And I don’t talk about garbage-time.
- If you ever wanted to give someone an example of how meaningless the +/- stat is, I’ve got one for you. Jason Kapono went 3-11 with 4 fouls in 21 minutes but was a game-high +20.
- Joey Graham’s parents were in the crowd hoping for a showdown. Didn’t happen, Good Joey had 0 points on 0-7 shooting but did grab 10 rebounds. Bad Joey got some points in garbage time. Box Score.
- Jose Calderon missed a FT. He still leads the league in percentage but Ray Allen isn’t far behind.
- Raptors had lost the PINP in battle in both of games against Indiana until yesterday when they killed them 48-28 thanks to Pops and our 15 fast break points.
- At one point in the game Leo said that Bosh is following Pops’ lead. I cried.
- Not sure why Anthony Parker is being drilled in the Roll Call. Anytime he shoots more than 50% and doesn’t let his man go off for 30 should be considered a successful outing. As yertu damkule once said, him showing the ability to play the backup PG in limited minutes will benefit him more than it’ll ever the Raptors.
- The Raptors snap a 7-game losing streak. If we play our cards right we could win 6 straight. Wouldn’t that be terrible?
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