Short one today, been up late with the site issues (sorry about that).
I can’t recall there being a more meaningful win this season. The Raptors basically did to the Pacers what the Celtics did to them on Wednesday: come back from big deficit to start the fourth quarter. The Raptors have often been inc lose games but this time around, they had the panache to finish in style. Say what you will about Rudy Gay and what his acquisition means to the direction of the rebuild/franchise, the man has an unblockable shot when he either rises near the elbow or posts up and turns around. It’s his length and point-of-release that makes him an asset late in the fourth.
There were times, especially early in the game, where you felt he was playing at half-speed. When George was going at him without an equal response from Gay, you wondered where this game might be headed and whether we’d have to rely on DeRozan, the only guy along with Johnson who played a full 48. The Raptors took a while to get used to the refs who weren’t calling anything for the Raptors (31-22 fouls in favor of the Pacers), but when they did, the “offensive toughness” that Jack so often calls about was there in plain sight. DeRozan driving to the rim, Gay going right at the body of George, and even the inconsistent Ross driving hard to set up the magnificent Valanciunas, who continues to be make massive strides.
This would have been a loss without Bargnani, who was simply perfect as the super-sub that we all know he can be. I bet even he realizes that that’s where he’s most effective, and 14 efficient points do the talking for me. Does anyone even care that he only had 2 rebounds? No. When coming off the bench, the standards are lower and the evaluation criteria different. He’s measured more on his offensive spurts, which we all know he can deliver, not on his end-to-end game. Put him there and you might not even need to trade him. I’d even say that he won the “mind games” aspect with David West.
Going up against Indiana you have the concern of getting out-rebounded, what with the Pacers being the best in the league at that and having a big front-line. These threats pose no fears when you have Amir Johnson in the form he’s been in. He was checking the much heavier Hibbert and doing so with good effect. The presence of laying that ball in at the buzzer just in time was paramount, and so was his help defense on driving guards. He’s the best at coming over to help a beaten guard due to his quickness advantage over Valanciunas and Gray, and better court-awareness than Bargnani. The Raptors relied on him big time to bother the Pacer bigs and when he fouled out in OT, this might’ve gone south, but Valanciunas stepped up and played big.
The negatives were Lowry’s petulance, Lucas’ irresponsible point-guard play, Ross’s overall game (although he did hit a big three in the fourth) and in a weird sort of positive/negative, Anderson took a terrible early shot and got benched by Casey. Ended up playing only four minutes.
The night belongs to DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Rudy Gay. DeRozan got us off to a good start with his tough offensive play, Bargnani supplied the bench scoring (Raps bench won 37-16), Valanciunas was massive in that third quarter when things looked to be getting out of hand, Johnson was the consistent strain that brought his one to the wire, and Gay was the guy that took over when it counted – 17 points in the fourth and OT.