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Raptors fail to play a full four quarters, lose to Pacers 122-114

On a night full of ups and downs, there were a few more downs than ups, and the Raptors lost their 21st game of the season.

Toronto Raptors v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

You know what they say, right? New year, new me, new ways of writing Toronto Raptors game recaps... I think that’s the saying. I’m always trying to find new ways to improve my content and writing, so bare with me through this idea that randomly spawned into my head.

Part of the fan experience of watching a game is riding the emotions of the game. You know that feeling of frustration when your team gets completely obliterated in the first quarter, just to slowly chip away and eventually take their first lead with 3 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

That is the type of experience I want you to have when reading this article. At the point of writing this intro, I have no idea what has happened, (or i guess, what is about to happen?)

That will be the same through my recap of each quarter. You will be reading this in a way which will allow you to relive the emotions you experienced through the entire game. So as you read my recap of the first quarter, I will have written that not knowing what is to come for the rest of the game, just as we would have when initially watching the game.

Make sense? Time to see if the Raptors can beat the Indiana Pacers and win two in a row against a quality, playoff opponent.

First Quarter

First of all, welcome back Precious Achiuwa! I know, we haven’t seen him yet, but it is a comforting feeling knowing that he is wearing a uniform on the bench.

If we look at Toronto’s dreadful loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on December 29, the team totalled 10 made threes for the entire game.

Tonight? They’ve already made six, including two from Fred VanVleet, which is a positive sign, because VanVleet has had multiple games where he has only made two or less for the entire game.

The Raptors came out of the gate firing, taking an early 19-8 lead off five 3-pointers and four free throws. Who are these Raptors? The team I’ve watched all year is second last in the league in 3-point percentage, and now through one quarter they’re shooting 60% with six makes.

It is a nice sign to see the Raptors back with their original starting lineup now that the majority of the team is healthy. Pascal Siakam has also came out aggressive early, with 15 points on 71% shooting through one quarter.

One guy who hasn’t came out aggressive is Scottie Barnes. Myles Turner and the Pacers are playing Ben Simmons type of defense on him. I’m not talking about the type of defense that Simmons plays, I’m talking about the way that teams often ignore him when he has the ball.

Barnes is a great playmaker and needs to continue that, but he shoots around 30% from three. No, it’s not great, but it certainly isn’t at a level where you should be able to just ignore him when he has the ball.

If there is one area to work on going forward, it is their interior defense. Whether it’s backdoor cuts, blow by’s, or just not having an interior presence to deter shots, Indiana is finishing inside with ease, as they shoot 66.6% on field goals inside the arc early. Maybe Achiuwa can positively affect this going forward, because the Raptors need it badly.

Score after 1st Quarter: 33-29, Raptors

Second Quarter

You know, maybe I spoke too soon on the Raptors’ 3-point shooting. After a stellar first quarter, they followed it up with a 4/11 second quarter from deep.

Following three straight games with at least 20 points for Gary Trent Jr., the man has come out on fire for a fourth game in a row. Finishing the half with 18, it is looking like he will be continuing the streak.

The Indiana Pacers love to RUN! They are 6th in the league in Pace, and you can see why. Off makes, misses, or turnovers, this team is looking to rim run and throw it up the floor before the opposing team can get back, and the Raptors certainly are struggling with it.

I miss the days when this team was an absolute problem defensively, whether that was half court or transition. However, the team continues to struggle in all facets on the defensive end.

Precious Achiuwa started the quarter and was on the bench before the 8 minute mark, leaving absolutely gassed, but making an impact with 2 points, 1 assist and 1 block. The shortness of breath was expected. It has been nearly two months since he’s played in an NBA game, and there is a big difference between basketball conditioning and being in shape.

Scottie Barnes is now 1/3 on jump shots, which is good because it at least keeps the defense honest.

Toronto needs to start getting back on defense, or they could lose the third quarter by 13 as well. The Raptors already have third quarter woes as is, so let’s see if they can get this game back, get some stops, and not continue to get out-rebounded 28-15

Score after 2nd Quarter: 66-57, Pacers

Third Quarter

After a back and forth start to the quarter, the Raptors quickly found themselves down 73-63, just to battle back with a 12-2 run to tie it up at 75. The defense was active and forcing turnovers, and it was combined with three 3-pointers on the other end.

Approximately halfway through the quarter, Nurse recognized the pace was leaning too far into the Pacers direction, and even though the Raptors were on a roll, it was great recognition by Coach Nurse to reel the team in, and ensure they would continue to chip away and re-take the lead.

The defense remained locked in, which lead to great ball movement on the offensive end, keeping the Pacers locked in at 75 points, while the Raptors took the lead with 82. This is the Raptors team that is fun to watch.

It all starts on the defensive end with effort and intensity. The Raptors will remain undersized unless they make a trade, or for those few minutes that Koloko is on the floor. So they need to combat that with strong on-ball defense, and rotations that fly around the court.

The game got a little chippy with a slight scuffle between OG Anunoby and Canadian Bennedict Mathurin, but as a whole nothing serious ensued, and this quarter was all Raptors until the final couple of minutes where the Pacers regained the lead, and are up one heading into the final leg.

Time to win the 4th, and not continue this pattern of winning/losing every other quarter.

Score after 3rd Quarter: 91-90, Pacers

Fourth Quarter

There isn’t much to say about this quarter, aside from this is how a team looks on the second night of a back to back. Even though this wasn’t the scenario at all, having two days off since the previous game. The offense was lazy, shots weren’t falling, and even the defense was a lot slower than the third quarter.

The Raptors made it semi-interesting cutting it to six with 19 seconds to go, but that was the closest they would come.

I wish it was a more exciting finish to what was a rather exciting game, but this is another example of the Raptors not being able to play a full four quarters. The second quarter was definitely the worst, losing by 13 and giving up 37 points, but not being able to close out a game against a quality opponent has been the story of Toronto’s season.

It was a positive that three guys on the team scored 20+ in Barnes, Siakam and Trent Jr. But it is hard to win when once again, you shoot 34% from three and get out-rebounded by double digits.

I may be back on striving for the highest pick in the lottery. I’m too emotional to be covering this team.