A Tale of Two Stats
I can’t remember the last time I saw the Raptors make as many careless passes as they did last night. They tried jamming the ball through tight spaces far too many times, and gave the ball to their bigs in the wrong spot too many times, and it cost them early. (A bunch of offensive fouls didn’t help either.) The four straight turnovers to start the second half were downright painful.
If the Raptors had gone on to lose, their turnovers would’ve been the story of the night.
Instead, we get to talk about the more impressive stat: a plus-23 advantage on the glass. The Raptors simply gobbled up every shot that went off the rim it seemed, and kept a number of balls alive on the offensive glass with tip-ins and tap-outs. None were bigger than two signature Kyle Lowry plays down the stretch: First, he tapped the offensive rebound off a missed Serge Ibaka 3-pointer out to Delon Wright; a minute later he grabbed an offensive rebound off another Ibaka missed three, got fouled, and sunk both to give the Raptors an 8-point lead—their biggest of the night—with 1:50 to go.
It Wasn’t Jonas’ Best Night, but I Love the Effort
Unfortunately he only shot 5-14, and he let Al Jefferson get the better of him for the first half. But, one of the things that’s impressed me about Valanciunas this year is that he doesn’t let a few missed shots or a couple turnovers or tough calls get to him. In the past he may have hung his head a bit; this year he just seems to come back even harder on the next play. He kept a ton of balls alive on the glass tonight, just getting after it, and when he got switched onto a mismatch, against a Victor Oladipo or Bojan Bogdanovic, he kept his stance, moved his feet as best he could, and made it difficult for those guys.
It’s just been great to see.
His front court partner, Serge Ibaka, had a good start as well, but faded late, missing those aforementioned threes and committing a couple of bad fourth-quarter fouls. Still, hard to complain—his early triples (2-of-3 in the first half) kept the Raptors close while they were turning the ball over every other possession.
WTF is it With Lance Stephenson, Anyway?
I’m not ashamed to admit I don’t watch many Pacers games outside of their matchups with Toronto. Does Lance Stephenson always run around like John Travolta just stabbed him in the heart with a syringe full of adrenaline? I mean I know he’s always been intense, but he seems to amp it up to a special level against Toronto. He pretty much single-handedly won the November match-up (13 points in the fourth quarter!) and he definitely seems to get under DeMar DeRozan’s skin.
It’s understandable; I sure wanted to put a hurt on him after he decked Delon Wright early in the fourth quarter.
In any event, his antics didn’t burn the Raptors in this one (and thank goodness, I don’t think I’d’ve been able to sleep if he killed the Raps again) and DeRozan shrugged him off enough to drop 24 points and 7 assists.
I Owe Al Jefferson an Apology
A few weeks backs during a game—I can’t remember which, might’ve been the Atlanta game—the camera panned over the opponents’ bench and I thought I saw Al Jefferson. And I thought, “Oh, good, Al’s still in the league, I always liked that guy!”
I soon realized it was not Al Jefferson, and compounded the error by assuming Al was not, in fact, in the league. So I mistook some dude I can’t remember for Al Jefferson and then just wrote Jefferson off as being done.
He showed me. 20 and 12 on 9-of-15 shooting and it seemed like he was the only one keeping the Raptors at bay at times.
It All Came Together in the Fourth Quarter
The Raptors finally started taking care of the ball in the final six minutes of the third quarter and trailed by only two heading into the fourth. It felt similar to Tuesday’s game, where they led by 2 at the same mark. And just like Tuesday’s game, C.J. Miles helped the Raptors blow it open in the fourth.
He went 3-of-4 from downtown both last night and on Tuesday, and that proved to be a huge difference maker.
Perhaps most impressively, the Raptors’ defense has been superb in the fourth quarter. They held the Pacers to just 8-of-24 shooting (and the Nets to 5-of-20 on Tuesday), and used those defensive stops to push the ball and get into their offense early (if not get a proper transition basket, such as the superb Lowry-to-Delon Wright fast break layup we saw last night).
(And while we’re talking defense—how about a little shoutout to Malcom Miller, tasked with guarding Oladipo most of the night? I haven’t heard much chatter about the kid’s D, but he was solid, sticking to Oladipo and holding him to relatively quiet 18 points on 8-of-19 shooting!)
The Raptors are now winners of 10 straight and are a 9-5 finish (or better) away from 60 wins. 60! They’ll aim to get one closer tonight against the last sub-.500 team to beat them, the Dallas Mavericks.