The Raptors are on the second night of a back-to-back, and rolling into Indiana (9-9) who are two games ahead of the Raptors for 7th in the East. Yes, the Raptors currently hold the 8th playoff seed; half a game ahead of Milwaukee. Could be a nice win for the Raptors who play the Knicks again on Wednesday and will be looking to exact some revenge after yesterdays loss.
Reggie Evans – Out
Peja Stojakovic – Out
I guess that settled that: Jose Calderon is the better PG. Since Jack got moved, Calderon has been averaging 10pts 8.6ast; numbers approaching the levels that had us all saying he was a top flight point guard when he got that big contract. The good news is that Jose is playing like the Jose we all know he can play like, the bad news is that he has another speedy point guard to deal with tonight in Darren Collison, who the Pacers landed in a damn good deal for themselves in the summer (only cost them Troy Murphy).
Collison was one of the prizes of the summer, and Bird somehow managed to engineer a trade that opened up playing time for Hibbert to shine, and land the point guard he desired, all in one-swoop; not to bad! Darren sees the court very welle, and is able to create off the dribble. He wont kill us from the perimeter, but his jumper is pretty good, have to get a hand up on him and things should work out. I like the energy Jose’s been-bringing on defense; hasn’t been stellar, but he’s not making it easy for the other point guard either. I’d like to see him continue that and make Collison beat the Raptors with his jumper and not his play-making when he gets going.
Should be noted that Collison is a pretty good defender, so Jose can expect to be tested on both ends of the floor.
It’s going to be a long night for DeRozan/Barbosa, I just have a feeling. Dunleavy seems to be one of those guys that always gets up to play against the Raptors. Fortunately for us he comes off the bench, and DeMar will have to deal with Rush for longer stretches. Rush was one of the guys we wanted to draft when we drafted Hibbert (talk about this later on) and traded to Indiana for Jermaine O’Neal *shudder*. The kid is very athletic, blocks shots, and a solid defender on the perimeter. DeMar will be wise to attack him as he has some intensity issues that render him useless at points; something DeMar knows all too well.
There are massive match-up issues for Barbosa when he’s in with Dunleavy, this is where Triano/Carlessimo have to get creative with their line-juggling, but Barbosa can’t defend Dunleavy; and neither can Dunleavy guard Barbosa. Depending on who’s playing, the Raptors can have the advantage in this match-up. The Pacers are a big team overall, so unless the Raptors small-ball unit is playing off the chain, it will tough to get Barbosa playing time at the shooting guard. Bayless could see reduced minutes tonight as Barbosa would most likely get some of his minutes at the back-up PG.
The wing situation is going to be a rough one for the Raptors tonight, where the Pacers are deeper than the Raptors, and able to throw different looks at us all night. Fortunately Weems (and DeRozan) have both started to play a little better the last couple games. Weems especially is finishing aggressively around the rim, when he’s actually engaged in the game. Granger is approaching elite-level scorer status the last couple seasons, and could easily go off for 35 (although we’ve been able to manage him rather nicely the last couple years).
I’m sure Posey’s good for a 3 pointer, if that…maybe he’s not, but the guy is a serviceable back-up off the bench in limited playing time; he’s a two-time world champion, that counts for something at the end of the day. The key will be to play Granger hard on both ends, and getting him into foul trouble. Since Weems is one of the two best finishers on team with a head of steam, running it at Danny can prove effective since he’s a tweener on defense who likes to swat balls (he’s not a bad shot blocker either, but you can’t block them all). Weems needs to rebound from a gawdawful game against the Knicks yesterday, and wont have an easy time of it. Still, he’s shown some resilience so far.
As an aside, I’ve lost confidence in Kleiza. It’s not that he can’t be a good player for the Raptors, as a spot up shooter off the bench he could still be a solid contributor, but he’s taking on too much and can’t deliver. Maybe Karl had it right with his usage in Denver…
Amir has really stepped up in Reggies absence, with a couple monster games. He’s been able to play under control and not get foul happy which leads me to believe that the coaching is getting through to him. The Pacers front court isn’t very strong after the starters, McRoberts is a good shooter from the perimeter, but can’t handle Johnson in the block on either end of the floor. I expect to see situational match-ups with Josh covering Bargnani, which will only lead to more trouble for the Pacers.
On Amir, McRoberts can’t defend and is a poor rebounder for his size; all the makings for a 20/10 night for our Young One. Ed Davis is making some significant contributions given that he’s coming off a pretty brutal injury. I’m really liking this kid a lot, and he too will have an advantage against Josh on the glass and in the quickness department.
Like I said earlier, the Raptors front court is better than the Pacers. Hibbert, much like McRoberts, is a big lumbering player who can’t keep up with either Bargnani or Johnson (or Davis or Dorsey). He does, however, pose some problems since he’s a traditional center who can score from 15ft-in. Bargnani didn’t play heavy minutes yesterday (33), so he should have the legs to get after Hibbert and/or McRoberts, doesn’t really matter who’s covering him tonight, he will own.
His rebounding has improved, and should be able to contribute on that front. My only hope is that Jeff Foster doesn’t find the fountain of youth and make an impact off the bench; he’s really feasted on the Raptors front court over the years with his hustle and grit.
The Raptors front-court has the horses to really make a positive impact on this game; had this not been the second night of a back-to-back, it could have gotten messy for the Pacers.
Does it upset no one else that the Pacers have two players, Granger and Hibbert, who by all rights should be a Raptor, that are thriving at positions that we currently need filled? Anyone?
Keys to the Game
Don’t get Down Early
The Raptors are on the second night of a back-to-back, so they need to use their energy effectively, and not to play catch-up; the game could be put away early if they come out flat. To Triano’s credit, he managed minutes pretty well last night, so the Raps won’t be totally worn out to start the game. The easiest way to stay in the game will be to pound the ball into Amir and Bargnani (depending on match-up and court positioning) and let them molest the Pacers front court. Getting into an up-and-down match to start the game may prove difficult to sustain and put them into a hole.
As always, the 3rd quarter push will be crucial, so catching a collective second wind at the half will be important. Jose might want to go back to handing out Gatorade in the locker room; seemed to help.
This would have been a perfect game for Reggie’s hustle, he could have easily grabbed 17 rebounds against a slow footed Pacer front court.
The Pacers are 3rd in the league in rebounding, with the whole team chipping in on the glass. Boxing out and crashing the boards should be the minimum requirement to see the floor tonight. Anything Bargnani can give us above 6 rebounds will be massive.
Two words: Julian Wright; the kid Is our best defender on the perimeter, and can help. He’s clearly not the answer, but he has the size, length and athleticism to both all three of Granger, Rush and Dunleavy. Won’t hurt, right?
Make Your Free Throws
The Raptors went 11-22 from the line yesterday against the Knicks. Not saying if they hit them they would have won (they wouldn’t have), but they could have changed the complexion of the game. 50% from the the charity stripe is unacceptable.