On a night where Chris Bosh struggled, the Toronto Raptors got all the offence they needed from their point guard position en route to a 123 to 112 win over Indiana. Up next, the Charlotte Bobcats tonight...
Don't you hate when real jobs get in the way?
Both Howland and I got stuck at work later than expected and therefore had to take a raincheck on last night's media access. It's too bad too because I was hoping to get a chance to interview Jarrett Jack on a night when he was not only facing his former club, but also showing signs of coming out of his early season slump.
However I think his play last night did all the talking needed.
Jack was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field scoring 18 points in 30 minutes. He also dropped in 6 assists and had 3 rebounds in his best overall game of the year.
Not to be outdone, his partner at the 1, Jose Calderon, set the tone early in this one and had a team-high 21 points.
These two were huge last night, helping the Raps jump out to a 21 point lead at the half, a lead they kept for the remainder of the game before finishing with a 123 to 112 win.
But for those who witnessed last night's affair, you know that this was no cakewalk. As has been the case so often this season, Toronto allowed a huge lead to disappear into thin air and by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, a 39 point third quarter by the Pacers had gotten Indiana within eight!
But was anyone who watched the game actually surprised?
I mean, this is becoming the team's M.O. night in and night out; either get behind by 20 and storm back, or get up by 20 and in the third quarter, let the other team back into it.
And maybe that's fine against a Pacers team that outside of Danny Granger (who was a monster with 36 points), had a tough time getting consistent offence throughout the game, but what are the Raptors going to do against some of the league's best? At some point as I've argued before, this team needs a plan B. The defence just isn't there to hold teams at bay so the offence needs to keep humming all game long. And that means if the jump shots aren't falling, time to start going inside again.
Luckily in the fourth quarter, the Raptors realized that jump shots alone weren't going to win them the match and Chris Bosh started to attack the rim. As well, Andrea Bargnani started to take over on O, and after being killed on the glass all first half, showed some aggression with a few big rebounds late in the game to prevent Indiana from getting second chances.
So can we move on to discussing the Bobcats game tonight? I mean, is there anything else to be learned from last night's win?
Not in my books.
Toronto shot a ridiculous percentage almost all game (they finished shooting a shade under 56% from the field and hit exactly half of their long-range attempts) got to the free-throw line more often than Indiana, and outrebounded the Pacers. This would indeed have been a blowout had Toronto been able to get stops in the third quarter or sustain their offensive input.
Up next as mentioned, the Charlotte Bobcats, in a game that from afar looks to be an easy win for Toronto.
After last night's win, the Dinos are back atop the league in terms of offensive efficiency while the Cats find themselves in the basement in this category being the third least efficient offensive club in the league.
Put it this way, Toronto may not be able to stop Charlotte from scoring tonight, but considering how terrible the Bobcats are at scoring, do the Raps really care? Let's look at this a bit closer in our first key:
1) Score, score and score some more.
As mentioned, the Charlotte Bobcats are a woeful offensive team. The Toronto Raptors as we know well, are not. Conversely, the Raptors are a woeful defensive club and the Bocats are actually the fourth most efficient team in the league currently in terms of D.
Essentially, these two teams are the antitheses of each other.
So who wins in a collision between these teams - is it the O or D?
That's the big question at the outset of this one and for a Raptors' club that hardly plays defense to begin with and routinely lets opponents back in games, they need to score and score lots. That means consistent scoring too. The bench last night in the win over Indiana was formidable (even Rasho pitched in with 10 points) and I'm looking to see more of that tonight.
2) Get role players involved early.
One of the best things about last night's win was that Toronto dropped 123 points on their opponents without much offensive help from Bosh or Bargs. DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon set the tone early with some aggressive attacks on the hoop, and I felt this paved the way for the rest of the evening.
I'd like to see more of this tonight. Bosh and Bargs may find it tough around the rim with solid defenders like Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace lurking so I'll be looking for others like Calderon, Jack and Belinelli to help pick up the slack on O.
3) Get out and go.
The Bobcats play at a plodding pace. They have the second lowest number of possessions per game in the league at present and look to run their offence through various half-court sets. As a defensive club, with shot-blockers like Chandler and Wallace, they're also much more efficient in the halfcourt.
If I'm the Raptors then, I want to get out and run tonight. Don't give Charlotte time to set-up their D, and ensure that you attack the basket. The Bobcats are not a deep team so once a player like Chandler gets in foul trouble it forces the Bobcats to rely on the likes of Diop and Mohammed.
I'm calling for a Raps win tonight but I don't imagine it will be easy. The Bobcats come into this game with 4 and 9 record but have looked better at both ends since Stephen Jackson's arrival. This is one of those teams though that the Raptors need to beat, so I expect the team to give a dominant performance despite being the second night of a back-to-back and a "home-away-from-home" nonetheless.