In a showdown of the top two defensive teams since the All-Star Break, the Raptors began the game looking a step slow on both ends of the floor. Indiana started the game strong, going on a small 8-0 run behind the play of Thaddeus Young and C.J. Miles. It didn’t take long for Serge Ibaka to remind us just how much he adds to this team, as he personally responded to the Pacers run with a single sequence which included a made three, defending Jeff Teague on a switch, forcing a miss at the rim, followed up with another made 3 pointer. All of this was part of a 16-4 run, which the Raptors used to get, and play ahead for the rest of the game.
Another notable play was at the 3:56 mark in which Jonas Valanciunas used his patented pump fake to get Myles Turner off his feet, and throw down a thunderous dunk plus the foul. Although the sample size is pretty small, Valanciunas and Ibaka have a solid synergy on the offensive end, made easier by the fact that they occupy different spots on the floor. In the opening quarter alone, the Toronto frontcourt combined for 70 per cent shooting, with Jonas boasting eight points and nine rebounds and Serge with ten points and two rebounds.
Not to be outdone by the other new guy, P.J. Tucker also reminded Raptors fans of what he brings. On a defensive possession against Paul George, Tucker fronted him to deny the entry pass on the left side of the court, chased him to the right side through screens, then stayed in front of George, crowding him and forcing a brick off the backboard, leading to a 24-second shot clock violation. All of this fanboying is to say: the Raptors deadline moves were great. The key stat of the quarter has to be the rebounding battle, in which the Raptors grabbed 20 to the Pacers five. Toronto headed into the second quarter up 32-24.
While the Raptors offense looked shaky to start, with Norman Powell forcing the issue a bit and missing his first three attempts, Toronto’s solid defense maintained their lead as the Pacers struggled to generate any good looks. Delon Wright played with aggression, and did a little bit of everything: from crashing the boards, taking a charge, to finding open shots for teammates after getting into the lane. On offense, Toronto kept it simple but played good basketball by simply penetrating the lane and swinging the ball until they found an open look. Dominating with size that the Pacers couldn’t match, Jonas had a double-double by half, and a DeMar DeRozan corner three stretched the Toronto lead to 15. After a few back and forths between Cory Joseph and Jeff Teague, followed by an emphatic Ibaka rejection of Teague, the Raptors steadied up to finish the half up 62-45.
Although the second half opened with a Paul George three, it was more of the same as the Raptors continued to keep the Pacers locked up. Even when the Raptors would go through scoreless stretches, Toronto kept the Pacers at bay while continuing to find good looks. In the 3rd quarter, this patience led to two DeMarre Carroll threes forcing a Pacers timeout. Also, given that we have basically become a PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka fanblog, I am not ashamed to point out how good Ibaka is. From hitting an iso-turn around jumper, to blocking Teague (again) on the break, Ibaka played great basketball. Also worth noting is the play of Jakob Poetl, who in limited minutes scored a career high 12 points, and made his presence felt in a pseudo instigator style, always challenging rebounds, and being active around the rim. Capped by a Powell corner three, the Raptors entered the final frame with a commanding 91-72 lead.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, as the Raptors held on to win 116-91. Noteworthy plays included P.J. Tucker taking a charge on Paul George, a Patrick Patterson steal leading to a Delon Wright breakaway dunk, and the Jakob Poetl show. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 22 points, three rebounds and four assists. Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 16 points, five rebounds and 11 points, 13 rebounds respectively, in limited minutes. The Raptors now prepare to take on the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
What’d you guys think of the game?