So the Raptors come out and more than hold their own against the Pa----.
I can't start this write up without getting this out of the way first.
Bryan Colangelo must have a thing about giving players an average of $10 million dollars per year. That's Andrea Bargnani, and DeMar DeRozan now. Like many writers, I don't like the upside on this deal even if DeRozan continues down the path that he's shown. And perhaps worse of all, in this new salary cap situation, DeRozan's actual market value may be lower than we all expect since teams are looking hard at managing their payrolls.
Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled recap.
I consider the Pacers to be one of the grittier teams in the East. They've got a lot of big players who like to muscle around in the paint. They have Tyler Hainsborough, who I want to smack in the face every time I see him on TV. (No, this is not a rational reaction, but it is my natural reaction.)
They have athletic players who like to take it into the paint and they've got some size to their guards.
And I'd say the Raptors more than held their own against the Pacers.
In fact, I think if we give the Raptors a couple more months under their belts, we could see a very different result. The Raptors are new to this whole "playing hard on defense and scrapping for every possession" gimmick. The Pacers are currently one of the scrappiest and have been so for at least a season, maybe a season and a half of play.
You had some good risk-taking plays by Kyle Lowry, a front court that did the majority of their scoring on drives and post put backs, and some pretty good aggressive defense throughout the game.
Lowry in particular was impressive. He just knows when players are distracted and aren't paying that close attention and as a result, he gets a lot of steals off of rebounding big men and point guards looking to call plays. As a result, his stat line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists sounds pretty impressive.
But his 5 steals? That's what takes the cake for me.
Toss in a very strong opening performance from Jonas Valanciunas at 12 points and 10 rebounds, and you can see that the Raptors new acquisitions performed as advertised. Pre-season was not just a fluke.
Likewise, despite the contract, DeMar DeRozan continues to impress with how aggressive he was throughout the game. Sure, he didn't get the calls all with zero trips to the line, but he didn't stop trying all night. These nights are the kind that you build your reputation on and after three years of building a reputation as a "soft" player, it's going to take some time for his reputation to change around the league.
However, you can see where this Raptors team is going to make strides.
Communication on pick and roll defense, especially in rotation to cover the roll man when the big comes out to hedge was a sore spot. It's how guys like David West and Ron Hibbert made a killing on the Raptors. In my opinion, Valanciunas and Bargnani both made the proper plays to go out and hedge against the smaller attacker, but the rotation from all the big men was non-existent. It didn't matter if it was Bargnani, Valanciunas, Johnson, or Ed Davis. It was a problem all night.
But I can live with that.
Which leads to the first real disappointment of the night, in the refs. I understand that they may have called this game a little loose, but they seemed to swallow their whistles over some pretty big plays and outright blew a few calls during the game. Would it have made a difference? Sure. But you can't control that.
What you can control though, is what your coach chooses to do with his substitutions. I honestly feel that this game was lost due to coaching mismanagement.
Specifically, running two point guards at the same time.
I just don't understand why we keep on trotting out the same dual point guard scheme every single year, with every single coach. It's like every Raptors team has had their own version of it whenever they've had "a couple strong point guards".
Yes, it may work in the playoffs for certain match ups, say when we had Chris Childs and Alvin Williams in the back court.
But we have shooting guards for a reason. And more importantly, we need to be developing a new one in the form of Terrence Ross. Giving him experience and touches should matter a lot more than getting a beardless John Lucas minutes.
And while you can say that Jose Calderon had the hot hand and Casey went with it, this isn't a pattern that I want to see the Raptors falling into.
All in all though, it was a great effort that came up short. I was happy with what I saw and there's lots to build on as the season gets going.
More importantly, it's the start of a new season and for me, hope has begun again.