The Raptors are now a team officially on a roll.
Well it sure didn't start pretty, but the end result was a good one for the Toronto Raptors.
In a game where the Raps were already missing their starting two guard the Raps lost Hedo Turkoglu early in the first quarter when his face was rudely introduced to the elbow of Mike Dunleavy. Hedo was out for the game and at this moment it is not clear whether he will miss any time.
For most teams missing both of your starting wing players would be a major blow. Luckily for the Raps (in this case) they have been getting limited production from these two spots all season so the insertion of Sonny Weems into the starting line-up, accompanied by heavy minutes for Antoine Wright and the team barely missed a beat.
Really last night's game spoke to this teams depth. Just look at the box score and you will see a lot of pretty numbers, the most obvious being the seven Raps that scored in double figures. During the course of the game almost every Raptor managed to contribute in a meaningful way and almost everyone had the offensive mojo going. Even Rasho Nesterovic had 6 points in a mere 4 minutes of action.
The one player who really couldn't get on track for the Raps? Marco Belinelli. His shot was simply not falling, but to make matters worse it was his non-existent defensive on Luther Head in the third quarter that allowed the Pacers to climb their way back into the game. Marco was actually the only Raptor who had a negative plus/minus in last night's match-up.
Yup, the offense was on fire and the Pacers really didn't stand a chance as they allowed the Raps to shoot over 60% from the floor.
Of course to me the Pacers didn't stand a chance from the moment that Jim O'Brien decided to use Danny Granger against both Bosh and Bargnani. Talk about a miscalculation.
Although there have been times when Bosh has had some trouble against smaller defenders in the past, forcing Granger to guard the All-Star led to foul trouble which in turn led to a complete lack of rhythm on the offensive end. Granger struggled mightily all night long going 3-13 from the floor for eight points. Meanwhile Bosh was flirting with a triple double posting another MASSIVE stat line of 26 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. Those are, ladies and gentlemen, MVP numbers.
I was lucky enough to attend last night's game, not through press access but through courtside tickets generously given to me by friends of mine. It was a great opportunity to get real close the action and there were a few things that really stood out.
First and foremost, there's good reason why Antoine Wright and Jarrett Jack are known as the Raps best defenders. They are easily the most vocal players on the defensive end. Time and time again they were telling people where to go, directing traffic and taking ownership of defense. Bosh would be a close third in this regard but these two really work defensively. For the Pacers the most vocal player defensively was Dhantay Jones, another player known for his defense.
Second, Amir Johnson is incredibly active. Even when he is not grabbing the rebound he is fighting for it or creating space for others. He is becoming a major asset for this team and I can't help but wonder how Jay Triano is going to distribute minutes when Reggie Evans comes back. Maybe by that point the Raps will be able to rest Bosh and Andrea Bargnani a little down the stretch. The thing about Amir is he does very little wrong and a lot of things right. He is effective, efficient and you can tell just how confident he is becoming on the floor. He is more controlled around the hoop.
Third, as far as I could tell Roy Hibbert was wearing Velcro sneakers. Yup, Velcro.
The Raps are now heading into a relatively easy stretch of games with the Pacers again, the Nets, Kings and 76ers. This is a real opportunity for the team to make a push and they seemed primed to do so despite a few injuries. This team has players ready to step in and fill any void.
Should be a great week.