garrett-hinchey
Anthony, try to put those arms up.
Raptors 101, Pacers 130

If there was a mercy rule in the NBA it would’ve been fit to invoke here. The Pacers laid down a beating to remember on the Raptors and unlike the last time we were in Indiana, there was no comeback to feel good about. The question raised during this hammering was whether the Raptors were playing really crappy or were just putting out a crappy effort, the answer’s probably a potent mixture of both. The apologists would tell you (as they did on the broadcast) that “these nights happen” and that such outcomes are often unavoidable when playing four games in five nights. However, we took it to the extreme and gave up 115 points in three quarters. I realize the game doesn’t mean much but there’s this thing called pride that tends to disappear from this unit at times and makes me question every single character on this roster.

Here’s a quote from Jarrett Jack which I wish were true of the Raptors:

I think we have a proud bunch of guys. Regardless of what the situation is, whether we’re in contention or not in contention, we’ve got guys who each time they step on the floor, they want to represent the organization really well.

I don’t get that feeling from the Raptors. When we were down by 41 in the third quarter nobody on the bench or on the floor looked peeved about being sodomized. A result like this significantly diminishes the value of that six-game winning streak because as much as winning games says about your basketball potential, a loss like this says even more about your character and mettle, something which should be a prerequisite for any Raptor next season. The varying effort that the Raptors play with scares me because it tells me that the problems go beyond talent and strategy but are deep-rooted in their spirit.

To quote Al Pacino from Scent of a Woman:

There isn’t nothin’ like the sight of an amputated spirit; there is no prosthetic for that.

Much of this game was a continuation of the audition started against the Hawks but let that not fool you, the starters played a lot of the first half and we were still down 26 by the end of it. O’Bryant, Ukic, Pops, Douby and Graham all logged 20+ minutes as they tried to give the Raptors a reason to hang on to them. Of the lot, Patrick O’Bryant was easily the most productive and played with a sense of urgency not seen from anyone on the floor. Bargnani missed the game because of a sore heel which gave O’Bryant the start. He’s got a face-up game with a soft outside jumper which is very useless to us since we already have Bargnani doing just that and a lot more. No matter how well he plays and how bad Pops plays in the next four games the latter will still be the better choice for the team. O’Bryant simply doesn’t provide a physical presence in the paint which is something next year’s backup center needs to bring.

Indiana dominated this one from the tip. I’m not sure if Danny Granger was outright schooling Shawn Marion early on or whether Marion couldn’t be bothered to hold his ground, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Marion checked out minutes into this game; he was also seen smiling in the third quarter after finding a Jeff Foster kickball somewhat funny. The game was all about the Indiana wings – Ford, Jack and Granger – taking out the frustrations of their disappointing season against our perimeter defense which was very much turnstile-like. They were whizzing by us in their half-court sets and in transition making the majority of the game seem like layup drills and pre-game warmups. I’m not even going to talk about our help-defense. It wasn’t late or technically wrong, it just wasn’t there. Indiana’s 62 points in the paint and our 1 block tells you the whole story.

The blowout was destined from the start because of our lack of effort but Calderon’s 2-9, Parker’s 3-10 and Marion’s 2-8 only escalated the proceedings. As I alluded to in the Jack quote, there needs to be a sense of pride regardless of the record and time of year but it’s not there and I don’t like it a bit. Bosh’s effort in his 28 minutes was solid but when you’re surrounded by players playing half-ass basketball it’s bound to rub on you, for example the airball three in the second quarter which even made T.J Ford feel embarrassed for him. Him and O’Bryant were the only one contesting for rebounds and playing with something resembling a fire spark, the latter even got into constant shouting matches with the officials – he fouled out in 20 minute scoring 16 on 8-11 – shot chart.

Continuing on with the evaluation, Roko Ukic went 1-8 with 7 assists and a turnover in 23 minutes. Do you feel confident heading into next season with Ukic as the primary backup PG? The platoon of Ukic and Banks will need an upgrade and no, Anthony Parker playing the point is not the answer. Ukic has no doubt shown an improvement in the way he’s able to get by his man but finishing and passing is another matter. Other than making simple passes off pick ‘n rolls, his passing game needs a lot of work. We haven’t seen enough lobs, cross-court loops, hard kick-outs, and other such situational passes and recognition from Ukic. No doubt these will develop as he gets more and more time but whether he’ll be ready to backup Calderon next season without being a liability is another matter. His drive is admirable but his finishing ability is lacking and hasn’t improved much over the course of the season. He needs a solid regimen this summer and reevaluation in training camp, as things stand he’s too raw to be counted on and needs more time.

Quincy Douby is the man the Raptors are taking a hard look at as a possible addition/alternative to Ukic and Banks. In his last two games he’s shown he’s as good as either of them, whether that’s really making any statement is something I’ll leave to the reader. Douby’s shown us a good outside touch (2-3 3FG), an ability to finish his drives and most of all some composure at the point. He doesn’t make nonsense passes, he tends to one-touch the swing-pass, no-look the pick ‘n roll pass and doesn’t hang on to the ball without having plans as to what to do with it. Whatever he does in the next few games isn’t going to land him a contract and he probably knows it, if he gets an invite to summer camp and then to training camp, we’ll have given him a fair shot.

Speaking of point guards, I have to say a word about Forderon. Ford got the better of Ukic and Jack got the better of Calderon. The Pacers were most dangerous with Jack and Ford both on the floor, the quickness was always going to be too much for us but they were both hitting their mid-range jumper which threw us a real curveball. If the effort would’ve been there we could’ve switched out and forced them into taking contested jumpers or even channeled them into a lane but since it wasn’t, they had autonomy to do whatever they pleased. If the underlying defensive effort isn’t there, no amount of strategy or skill will do you any good. What irks me most about this effort and result is that the franchise is made to look like a joke and I get a sense I feel it more than the players.

It’s funny how we’re currently searching for a banger-type backup center but traded away Roy Hibbert, a player who the Pacer staff think could be ready to start as early as next year. Hibbert was very active in this one, 17/7 on 5-8, most of them interior scores. Pops was his counterpart and went 3-11, not a strong showing by a man who Colangelo has already hinted at resigning. Maybe the early love he received is getting to his head, this was a game where a motivated man could put up big numbers and sad to say, his wasn’t there. Other than a brief verbal altercation with Jeff Foster (extinguished by Jason Kapono who makes sure none of the Raptors lose the pussy in them), his intensity and hustle was low. Not good.

I was watching the game at Philthy’s with the resident drunk and we started talking about the recent Hall of Fame inductees. In his inebriated and my disgusted state we decided that the Hall of Fame needs to be revamped and that we need “levels” in it so that certain players and coaches are properly recognized. No offense to David Robinson or C. Vivian Stringer, but Jordan is in an entirely different class than them. I don’t know how much sense that makes.

Liners

  • There were three levels of garbage-time in this game. Second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter. The final score is rather flattering, we won an utterly meaningless fourth where Maceo Baston saw the light of day.
  • Just like Joe Johnson on Tuesday, Danny Granger showed us how vulnerable we are against a scoring wing – Marion or no Marion. We tend to forget that defense isn’t always as simple as assigning a good defender on a good player, Indiana did their damage off of the switches they initiated just as much as from individual breakdowns.
  • The Pacers thoroughly avenged their earlier 110-87 loss in Toronto.
  • The traveling is getting out of hand. Three steps have become the norm and shuffling pivot feet is routine. I didn’t care much at first but the more you notice this, the worse you feel.
  • Our record on TSN2 is 8-15.
  • Joey Graham got his points from the line. Last month I proposed giving him a 2.75M/yr deal, I was being stupid. I think he’ll settle for a little over minimum, he’s played better since Triano took over but that doesn’t mean his stock has risen.
  • You know what’s more consistent than anyone of the Raptors? AltRaps’ Roll Call.
  • I just can’t wait to see what kind of offers we get for Bosh in the summer. My thinking is that Colangelo trades him unless he signs an extension. There’s no way we can go into next season with the “Will Bosh re-sign?” question looming after every game. It would be terrible.
  • If this were a mid-season game this post would’ve been much different.
  • Anthony Parker is shooting 37% in his last 5 games and hasn’t shot over 50% since March 15th when he went 4-7 against Indiana.
  • We’ve split our four meetings with the Pacers and none of them have been tight games.
  • Watching Joey Graham and Danny Granger on the same court is painful.

Thanks for reading.