ShamSports

Knicks vs Hicks was the old Indiana/New York rivalry’s billing, hence the title. I know, it doesn’t have the same rhyme or the feel, but I’ll take what I can get. Indiana is 10 games under .500 and currently holds the final spot in the East playoff race, which is always a nice segue to see what teams in the West wouldn’t make the playoffs despite having a better record than Indiana: Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Golden State. What? Only 4? This surely marks an improvement in the East, a shift in the balance of power if you will.

I think Tyler Hansbrough said it best after the Pacers lost their fifth straight: “It’s unbelievable, but yeah we’re still in the playoffs as of right now.”

The Raptors have played the Pacers twice this season, losing both: 124-100 in Indiana and 104-93 at home, if I recall correctly, T.J Ford had a decent game somewhere in there, and by decent I mean 4 points and 6 assists. Every team the Raptors play has an associated Vince Carter memory attached to it, mostly because those were the only times when there were good memories of anything for this franchise. Here’s the one that sticks out:

Injury news courtesy of raptors.com:

  • Andrea Bargnani (flu) was limited in Wednesday’s practice (“his energy level is pretty low right now,” said Jay Triano), but he could be back in the starting lineup tonight against the Pacers.
  • The same can’t be said for Amir Johnson (sprained left ankle), who didn’t practice and is officially listed as questionable for tonight. Johnson has been a warrior for this team all season, but Triano sounded doubtful he’d go on Thursday. Also not practicing Thursday was Jose Calderon, who was kicked in the calf against the Jazz and was feeling discomfort.
  • Reggie Evans was limited after logging an astounding 33 minutes in his first game back from a foot fracture, while Leandro Barbosa was also hampered by a sore back. Alexis Ajinca (knee) remains questionable.

Shifting gears for a second, do you think the Raptors players have given the proper effort this season? With the exception of a few losses here and there, I think it’s been fairly acceptable given the trying nature of this season. Larry Bird on the other hand, doesn’t like what the Pacers are giving him. Their five-game slide has seen them lose by 24, 8, 17, 10 and 26, so it’s understandable why Bird is upset – his team isn’t very good and on top of it they’re not trying.

From the Raptors POV, it’s all about playing through the season and waiting for next year. Just like the year before, and the one before that, and the one before. Here are some things I keep an eye out for these days:

  • DeRozan’s jump-shooting percentages when he’s coming off the ball for a catch-and-shoot versus when he’s creating his own look.
  • Ed Davis’ movement after setting the high-screen, and the quality of his screens.
  • First five plays of the game for the Raptors, usually this gives away what the Raptors think is their strength in the game.
  • Jerryd Bayless’ impact in his first stint – it’s been pretty iffy of late.
  • Sonny Weems’ effort off the bench just to check whether he’s realized he’s in a contract year.
  • The number of times Andrea Bargnani is only serving the role of a floor-spacer by standing on the perimeter, versus the times he’s causing shifts in the defense.