Now, before everyone starts talking about sending Anthony Parker to the bench, this was one game.
And Indiana, while they’ve had some solid wins this year, shot under 35 per cent on the night.
However, with that out of the way, how about Jason Kapono?
At the HQ we’ve been screaming for him to start since JO was brought on board and his insertion into the top 5 paid big dividends last night.
(Well…unless you decided to put him on your bench for your fantasy basketball team like I did last night. Arrrgh.)
But back to the win.
Yes, the Raptors snapped their five-game losing streak with a resounding 101 to 88 win over the Indiana Pacers, but I think for this recap, it’s worth focusing on some key areas from this W...starting with changes to the starting line-up.
Post-game, Raptors’ coach Jay Triano was asked if the starting line-up for last night’s game would remain the same going forward. His answer?
"If something’s going we’ll keep it going – AP needs a bit of a break from the guys he’s had to guard…"
I personally loved this response as I think it shows just how open Jay is to trying new scenarios. Jason Kapono won’t be quite the flamethrower he was last night EVERY night but the point here is that the Raptors’ coach is pulling a bit of a Mike D’Antoni; the guys who fit the system he wants to play will play and the rest, well, take a seat.
This applies not so much to Anthony Parker, who I still expect to play a prominent role once he returns from his ankle injury, but more so to Andrea Bargnani. Bargs missed all four of his shots on the night and while he had one huge rebound late in the game, he just looked lost once again. In fact, Triano commented on this stating that it was during the loss to the Cavs the night before that he decided to make a switch from Andrea to Jamario.
"We were a little lethargic chasing the ball off the defensive glass (in Cleveland)…" said the Raptors’ coach, and he came off looking like a basketball savant as Jamario had his best all-around game of the season. Moon was seven for 12, shot the ball with confidence, and more importantly, did all the little things that the team needed him to do as he had eight rebounds, two steals and three blocks. He even had the 100 topping basket to get the ACC faithful the pizza they were waiting for!
The biggest thing though for me in regards to Jamario on the evening was how comfortable he looked. Under Mitchell this year, everything seemed forced, or reactionary. Last night however, Moon on a number of occasions just seemed to flow with the pace of the game, taking his man to the hoop, beating the shot clock on a Vince Carter-esque jumper, or throwing it down off a ridiculous offensive rebound. Coach Triano’s system just seems to play to Jamario’s favour and emphasize his strengths and this was backed-up by Moon post-game in this quote when asked about his big dunk:
"My man lost me so I thought hey, this is my chance to go in and get an offensive rebound. This year the rebounds haven’t been falling in my hands that much…"
I really thought this spoke volumes to not necessarily his rebounding effort, but how well he understood where he needed to be on the court at all times.
So what about Andrea after all of this?
It’s a tough question but I think Jay will look to find better opportunities off the bench for him. Bosh and O’Neal’s minutes have both dropped closer to the 30 minute range and I expect Andrea to get more time at the 4 and 5 spot. It will be up to him as to how well he uses the time he’s given because I think what we’ve seen so far is that Jay is going with the hot hand. If you aren’t producing in some capacity, you’re getting a quick seat next to Nathan Jawai.
Moving on from Bargs, I think it’s important to highlight a particular stat on the evening.
Last night represented only the fifth time this year that the Toronto Raptors made 40 shots in a game.
For a team that always looked to be a much better offensive than defensive club the last few years, I found this year that the team at times struggled to score. This was extremely concerning for me because if there was one area the team could possibly excel in compared to other clubs, it was via scoring. While we’re talking game four here under Triano, the entire team seems encouraged by the results so far, even in the losses. Jose Calderon mentioned this post-game and it just seems that every player on the Raptors believes in what Jay can do.
I’m not sure I can emphasize enough how important that is and seeing the players jovially greeting the Raptors’ coach after the victory simply emphasized this.
In fact, the common theme post-game and even based on body language during the game was that Triano was making things fun again for the club.
Yes that admittedly sounds like an AAU or even junior high thing to say but I really think this is the case.
Basketball players love to score, to get out and run, dunk and take shots, and I don’t care whether they’re Allen Iverson or Ben Wallace. Triano simply looks to have a better understanding of how to best use players to their strengths, something Jason Kapono alluded to in comments like these post-game:
"I think Jay, during his playing days and his coaching days, he’s used to using a lot of pin-downs and screens and motion type of sets…That's always been my best game – cutting, reading screens, being able to use my knowledge of the game versus my quickness…which I don't have."
That quote was like a breath of fresh air to my ears.
Combine Kapono’s play with that of Moon, Joey Graham (again), and even Roko Ukic and you got one of the team’s most complete games all season and therefore a resounding win.
However as Raptors’ fans we tend to have higher "highs" and lower "lows" than most I think so I hope this win doesn’t distort things completely.
There are still talent issues that need to be addressed and against a team last night who’s best players made shots (Granger was only 9 for 25 while Marquis Daniels and TJ Ford were a combined 9 for 27) this would have been a lot closer.
Shooting percentages aside these two teams posted almost identical stats and again the Raptors got smacked on the offensive glass in terms of rebounding, 18 to nine. Points in the paint also went in Indiana’s favour so make no mistake about it, this was a feel-good win but it slightly blurs the fact that Toronto is still struggling in certain key areas.
That’s why suddenly Friday’s game is much-watch TV for Raptors’ fans.
The rematch against Vince Carter, the Nets coming off a strange loss to the Knicks, Toronto bizarrely trying to catch New Jersey in the standings, the Dinos starting to play a style that seems to fit some of their personnel a lot more…you name it, this game has it for storylines.
Before heading out on another Western road swing later this month it would be huge if the Raptors could put together a few wins.
And from last night’s win it looks like "fun" could be leading the charge.