Morning Coffee – Thu, Oct 29

Toronto Raptors adapt well in opener, storm back to subdue Indiana Pacers | National Post

With the success of small-ball lineup all around the league, culminating in Golden State’s championship, the traditional big man is losing his place in today’s game. The Raptors still veer toward an old-school roster. On Wednesday, the Raptors’ style was enough to beat the new-look Pacers 106-99. In the end, the stylistic differences did not play into the game too much, both teams content to allow the other to do what it wanted without matching up. There was little harm done, as both teams struggled offensively — the Raptors with a gaudy 21 turnovers, and the Pacers with miserable 37 per cent shooting. The Raptors finished with a small lineup featuring just one traditional big man — Jonas Valanciunas — and two point guards. That was the exception, though.

Valanciunas sharp as Raptors top Pacers in opener | Toronto Sun

The only offence the Raptors could rely on in that first half was Jonas Valanciunas who was getting plenty of touches and converting them. The Valanciunas of a year ago was a little hesitant to let fly with his shot, but that Valanciunas is no longer here. This year’s version is either going straight at the basket or aggressively going up with his shot as soon as he gets the ball. “Just working on shooting and releasing fast,” Valanciunas said. “No more pump fake. Just being decisive.”

The water cooler: Five talking points from the Raptors’ opener | Toronto Star

The Raptors’ offence fell apart late in the first quarter and through the majority of the second. They were saved by centre Jonas Valanciunas, who was essentially the only player that kept the Raptors remotely in the game. He was a very efficient 6-of-8 from the field for 12 points and nine rebounds in the half. The big man hit the double-double mark in the third quarter and continued to score, notching his 14th point on a pretty spin move through the paint that he finished with a hook shot and grabbed a key rebound with 37 seconds left to play and his team up three. He finished the night with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Raptors facing a new set of expectations |

The biggest concern, from my point of view, is the second unit. I don’t trust Terrence Ross at the best of times and the fact of the matter is he is now in the position where he will often be introduced to the game at the worst of times. As Casey said on Wednesday, Ross’s job will be to come into the game and “change the lead” or “maintain the lead.” He will be counted upon to contribute from three-point range and the problem is that he won’t be able to feel his way into the game as he might a starter. Casey has other options first off the bench, like Patterson and Cory Joseph, but the latter would necessitate going small and I have to think that in Casey’s perfect world Patterson is actually starting and Luis Scola is on the bench. Biyombo is a defensive possibility. There is no Lou Williams in this group.

Raptors lap Pacers in second half, win 106-99 in home opener | Raptors HQ

What didn’t change? Despite his new skinny frame, Kyle Lowry still plays basketball with a frustrated fury, like he’s seeking to right some gross injustice. His play in the first half, when the Raptors struggled, was poor. And yet, he’d dip and dive and shoot big shots and will the Raptors back into the game through the force of his persistent anger. Lowry finished with 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting and six assists. His running mate, DeMar DeRozan, kept things cool in that maddening DeRozan way: he shot contested shots, missed what felt like obvious passes, and yet somehow helped the team win (despite somehow missing six of his 16 FT attempts). Both of these things are nothing new.

Rusty Raptors show signs of progress in season opener |

In the end there were all kinds of echoes from last season. DeRozan won the game by resorting to isolation ball. Lowry added 23 on 17 shots, and Patrick Patterson chipped in with some timely shooting off the bench. So how to assess? It was like Toronto used the first half to ring every alarm bell possible with regard to concerns you could conceivably have about the newly assembled roster (Will the ball move enough? What about the three-point shooting? How will the second unit score?) and silenced them — sort of, anyway — one by one. With the new faces and the new points of emphasis and the new schemes, perhaps there should have been a greater expectation for things to get off to a less-than-ideal start. Optimism can only take you so far. Even after a month of training camp and exhibition play, the Raptors are still an unfinished product.

Carroll performs as advertised in Raptors opener | TSN

Toronto overcame a 16-point first-half deficit to win its opener. Most who watched will remember the third-quarter run, spurred by the relentless play of Kyle Lowry. They might recall DeMar DeRozan, who couldn’t hit a shot to save his life early on, knock down a couple daggers to seal it in the fourth. Not to be outdone, Jonas Valanciunas was excellent, scoring 21 points on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds. But none of this is made possible without the work of Carroll, who came as advertised. “[That’s] exactly why he’s here,” said DeRozan, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “Bring that toughness, that defensive mindset and the things that he’s able to do offensively. But his mindset is always going out there and guarding the best players and he did a helluva job tonight.” Carroll spent almost the entire game defending Pacers superstar Paul George. Returning from a serious leg injury, George – a pretty remarkable story himself – was held to just 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting. He missed 10 of his first 12 attempts.

Game Rap: Raptors 106, Pacers 99 | Toronto Raptors

After scoring just 37 points in the first half, Toronto exploded in the third, outscoring Indiana 35-23 behind a 10-point quarter from Kyle Lowry. The Raptors closed the quarter on an 11-2 run, kicked off by five points from Lowry and a Lowry assisted three-pointer by Patrick Patterson to turn a five-point deficit into a four-point advantage going into the fourth.

Toronto Raptors claw back to win home opener against Pacers | Raptors Cage

The Raptors defence on the Pacers was commendable tonight. Earlier on their defence definitely didn’t live up to the offseason hype with the Pacers dropping 30 on the Raptors during the opening frame. However the Raptors managed tighten up their rotations and hold the Pacers to shooting under 30% in the next quarter. Once the Raptors got into their defensive sets they clearly started frustrating some of the Pacers perimeter players. DeMarre Carroll is a revelation on the defensive side of the court. Carroll was able to hold George to only 4 for 17 shooting forcing the likes of C.J Miles and Rodney Stuckey to beat the Raptors. The Raptors still have a lot of work to do, especially in terms of their transition defence. There’s no reason for three players to defend the ball handler on the fast-break. Even if something as foolish as that should occur there’s no way that player should finish the layup at the rim.

Game Rewind: Pacers 99, Raptors 106 | Indiana Pacers

The Pacers wound up forcing 21 turnovers on the night, while only committing 13 themselves. Top free agent signing Monta Ellis battled foul trouble in the first half, only logging a little over nine minutes before the break. Ellis finished with nine points on just 3-of-11 shooting in 28:32, though he did dish out six assists. New starting center Ian Mahinmi finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks before fouling out in the game’s final minutes. Toronto outrebounded Indiana 50-40 and also had 17 team rebounds to the Pacers’ eight.

Post-Game Grades: Indiana Pacers Come Up Short in Toronto | 8 Points 9 Seconds

Paul George struggled to find his shot (4 of 17, 0 of 4 from 3-point) but he found other ways to contribute. He had 17 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists and played defense well when he wasn’t slipping on the Raptors strangely slick court. The poor shooting isn’t a real concern as everyone is going to have bad nights and it turned out PG’s was on opening night. However the poor shooting throughout the game might have tipped things in favor of the Raptors so I can only give him a B despite being two assists away from a triple-double.

Insider: Offense goes cold in Pacers’ season-opening loss to Toronto | Indy Star

It didn’t help that the Pacers collected 30 fouls; Ellis picked up two early whistles and his departure from the game disrupted the normal rotation, Vogel said. As the game continued, so did the whistles. At one point, the Pacers were tagged for 23 fouls, while the Raptors had just 13. Naturally, players showed frustration, which continued into the locker room after the game. “We felt like there were a lot of bad calls,” George said. “Close games like that, let us play. You’ve got a guy like (Kyle) Lowry who’s down on one end doing what he wants and then on the other end, he gets touched and the whistle’s getting blown. We (were) frustrated. We (were) very frustrated.”

Second half struggles lead to loss in Pacers’ season opener | Indy Cornrows

The Raptors found a rejuvenated energy out of the half, blitzing Indiana 35-23 in the third to take control of the game. A series of bad decisions by Indiana opened up an 8-0 run by Toronto in the opening minute of the fourth, leading Indiana to fall behind by 12 out of the gate. A four point play by Terrence Ross proved the crux in that opening minute, something the Pacers spent a majority of the quarter trying to make up. Indiana did manage to close the gap at 95-95 with 2:47 left in the fourth, but DeMar DeRozan responded with a big three point play to push Toronto back ahead. Paul George returned the favor, taking it to the rim for an and one opportunity of his own, but missed his only free throw of the night to keep Indiana down a point. DeRozan capped his 25 point night on the following possession, drilling a tough jumper to key a 7-0 run that led Toronto to the 106-99 victory.

Pacers Blow Halftime Lead, Lose to Raptors 106-99 | Ink on Indy

Shooting, or lack there of it, was the biggest factor in the Pacers fading at the end of the game. Some of that could be due to the uptempo style and the players still getting used to it, but the team shot 32-of-86 (37.2 percent), including 9-of-23 from three point range. The Pacers defense played really well the entire night. Yeah, they gave up 69 points in the second half, but they forced 20 turnovers. Toronto finished the night shooting 45 percent from the field, which is not what most Pacers fans are used to seeing, but the old guard is gone and so is the stout defense.

Raptors opening victory felt like just another game | Toronto Sun

This Raptors team is not yet ready for prime-time player, even with a first-night win. It may build into something as the season progresses. It is, as Babcock or Dwane Casey might say, a work in progress. But for now, we’re at the beginning of the work. There isn’t much to get too excited about. The Raptors’ early schedule isn’t exactly inviting, although general manager Masai Ujiri used an old line when talking about it Wednesday. He said they’re going to play 41 road games and 41 home games, just like everybody else. That sounds fine after one game. Let’s talk again after 20 when the Raptors could conceivably be 6-14. And I’m not kidding or being a doomsayer when I say that. It is possible.

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