I’ve lost track of how many times the C**tics have pissed in my cornflakes. They stabbed us a long time ago and now they just twist the knife every time we play them. The part that both hurts and soothes me is the knowledge that they are clearly and without doubt the far superior team, and expecting a win against them is unrealistic. Things would’ve ended the same way if the Raptors hadn’t given up a 10-0 lead to start the game; they would’ve just gone into a higher defensive gear and outscored us 10-0 when it counted the most. For the Raptors to pull a game like that out they need their offense functioning at peak efficiency and the defense being top-notch for at least 40 minutes, instead Hedo Turkoglu played like an arthritic 65-year old and our PG were doormats. Good news is that we got a chance to erase those memories tonight in Indiana.

Indiana, the hotbed of basketball. Also, the hotbed of a team that’s lost 11 of 13, is 3rd worst in the conference and lost by 43 to the Knicks a few nights back. Our man T.J Ford has been dropped from the rotation in favor of Travis Diener and rookie second-rounder A.J. Price (yes, it’s that bad). Here’s what our man from 8 Points 9 Seconds thinks of him:

When Larry Bird traded JO’s contract for TJ Ford and a draft pick (which turned out to be Roy Hibbert), I don’t think that even Bird saw him as a long-term solution. TJ was supposed to be someone who would be a stop-gap solution for a faux-rebuilding franchise and look good playing in Jim O’Brien’s quick-shooting, spread offense. The main criticism is against TJ Ford is that he was never a true point guard — which is probably why Jose Calderon seemed to be the much better option for the Raptors — but that was not something I expected to be a major issue in Indiana under O’Brien. Jimmy’s 2003 Celtics that went to the Eastern Conference Finals flourished with shooters on the wing that opened the penetrating lanes for an even-older-and-slower Kenny Anderson to either get to the cup and finish or kick out for open jumpers. I expected TJ to not only embrace but thrive in that a similar environment here in Indy with guys like Danny Granger, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy all being dangerous shooters.

But it never happened.

From day one, TJ never fit in here particularly well. Lil’ Dunleavy played de facto point-forward in 2007-08 and between that, injuries and the Jarrett Jack acquisition the following year, he has really never really spent any extended stretch of the season as the guy that the Pacers relied on to run the offense.

And just like Jack took his job last year, many Pacer fans expected Earl Watson to see plenty of time starting this season. Ford entered the year as the starter by reputation and he certainly had every opportunity to engrave that in stone, but his erratic play, inexplicable tendency to turn the ball over via the “help … I’m lost in the air” jump pass, turnstile defense and inability to make an outside shot (he’s 1 for 28 from behind the arc this year and didn’t even hit that one until December 14), left O’Brien with really no choice but to try something else.

He banished TJ to third string and out of the rotation to the point that Ford has now received DNP-CDs in his the last five games.

And with Earl Watson continuing his regular “adequate-if-unspectacular” self and AJ Price starting to look like the aggressive, scoring point that Jack gave the Pacers last season, it’s looking less and less likely that TJ will be playing much in the weeks to come.

It’s a shame, too, because I still don’t understand exactly why he can’t play well consistently. I guess that’s just his thing. When he’s going well, he has been a very good scorer and the Pacers could desperately use his ability to get to the bucket (even though he misses more layups than anyone I’ve seen in an Indy uniform in a long time).

If the past is a guide, we can probably expect him to re-emerge in mid-February and have a few 25-point games — and perhaps even hit a game winner or two. Then, he’ll turn back into a pumpkin as he penetrates to the rim, jumps into the air and throws a perfect pass to the other team.

This game falls under the category of “supposed to win” just like the Philly one. The uninterested first half in Philadelphia was a testament to how unfocused and overconfident this team can be, and it’s because there’s no internal leadership which can keep things in check and everybody playing the game the right way night in and night out. It’s an intangible that’s been missing for some time in Toronto and we see these problems surface too often for my liking. Having said that, I believe the Raptors will come right at Indiana out of the gates for two reasons: 1) Philly is fresh in their memories and 2) They want to forget the Boston loss.

Troy Murphy’s the guy I like to keep an eye on when playing the Pacers, he’s got a habit of getting 20 rebounds against us and is one of the few big men who can give Andrea Bargnani a taste of his own medicine. The guy averaged 16/15 against us last year, both well over his season average. Indiana’s offense is rated 27th in the NBA and they are a poor 3-point shooting team at 32.8%. The defensive rating is 16th in the NBA, of note is that they play at the 2nd highest pace in the NBA. Those of you who are in love with Amir Johnson should know that the pick we traded away in the O’Neal deal, Roy Hibbert, is averaging 10.9/5.9 and actually has a semblance of an offensive game. The two compared.

With Calderon now coming off the bench, Jack, Calderon and Ford will all find themselves in a role they weren’t originally acquired for. Funny how things work out. The PG play against Boston was brutal, Jack failed to get anything on offense and Jose’s defense was predictably bad in the fourth quarter. We needed stops down the stretch and couldn’t get them as Rondo notched the easiest triple-double he’ll ever get. Earl Watson is no Rajan Rondo and their PGs on paper are ripe pickings for ours. Danny Granger will be matched up with Hedo Turkoglu whose play is impossible to predict. Here’s a quote from him after the Boston defeat:

“The way I play, I’ve never been a selfish guy. I’m just trying to play as hard as I can, and get myself going. If I have the ball, I can be more creative with it. For me, I’m running on the side and expecting to be a spot-up guy – you know, it’s hard for me. I can’t really go and grab the ball from Jose or Jack’s hands. I respect those guys – they’re great players. And they’re used to running the team too.”

His frustration is understandable but he’s got to be part of the solution and not just complain to the media, these things need to be taken to the coach’s office and sorted out there, we shouldn’t even be hearing about this. Usually I’m all for blaming the coach for not putting the player in the right circumstance, but Hedo’s to blame here as much as anyone. At $53M he better be figuring things out on his own and demanding the ball in the timeouts and practices instead of taking the backseat to Jack and Jose on offense. The only person turning Hedo Turkoglu into a spot-up shooter is Hedo Turkoglu. Yes, Triano hasn’t exactly catered to his needs and publicly declared him the point-forward, but he shouldn’t need to. We’re dealing with a veteran player here, not a rookie that needs hand-holding.

And finally Bosh, when did he become such a turnover machine? He’s averaging 4.8 turnovers in January and has had 6, 6 and 5 in his last three games. His assist numbers are up from 2.1 to 3.2 between January and December but they’re coming at too high of a cost. He’s got to stop forcing passes into traffic and recognize that not every cut needs to be rewarded, in other words. His presence of mind with the ball has never been the greatest and we’re seeing defenses pressure him after he picks up the dribble with good results. Get rid of the rock ASAP after the double and trust your overpaid teammates to make a play. The podcast discusses the reason for his turnovers, his failure to box-out Kendrick Perkins on that crucial rebound, and a lot more.

This is a bit of a milestone podcast as it’s the 50th one recorded. I went back to the first one and heard myself defending Andrea Bargnani after a 2 rebound effort and criticizing Chris Bosh after a 40+ point game at MSG. Go figure. Joining me are RapsFan and A-Dub as we go through the C**tics fourth quarter, discuss Hedo Turkoglu, the controversial two-guard lineup, the intensity of Bargnani’s resurgence, the Bosh trade rumours, the improved defensive play of our bench, A-Dub’s infatuation with starting Belinelli over DeRozan, Arvydas Sabonis and more. There’s also a mention of the Kardashian sisters and Horace Grant for very valid reasons. You can click the play button below or listen directly in iTunes (39:53 min). You may also download the file (14.02MB).

All three predict a 2-1 week ahead with wins in Indiana and New York, and a home loss to Dallas. RapsFan fears the Knicks as the Raptors will play them after a full four day break.

This came up on the podcast and on Twitter earlier. Is rebounding the main cause of our losses? Judging by watching the games alone, it doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not to the degree it was last year. Situational offense, perimeter defense and aggressive help schemes would rank ahead of rebounding in my book but here are the rebounding numbers for your analysis. We’re 20th in the league in rebounding our misses at 25.56% while being 27th in collecting opponent misses at 71.25%. So we’re a bad defensive rebounding team but not a terrible offensive rebounding unit. Our second-chance points stats say that even though we’re giving up a lot of offensive rebounds, it’s not coming back to kill us. In our 19 losses, only 3 times has the second-chance disparity been 5 or greater. In 8 of those losses, we actually scored more second-chance points than our opponent. It must also be said that we were outrebounded in 14 of our 19 losses and managed to win 7 games in which we were outrebounded. Also, we outrebounded the opponent in 12 of our 19 wins.

It’s no revelation that the better you rebound, the better chance you have of winning. It’s a different thing to say that we’re losing because we’re not rebounding. I submit that even though our defensive rebounding gets a lot of flak, it is not the reason for our .500 record. Our inability to defend is reflective in our league-worst defensive rating of 109.8 which is normalized to consider offensive rebounds; it’s not like we can actually defend but simply give opponents more possessions.

Take a guess who made it to Twitter. Yup, that’s him.

Let’s go Raptors.

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