The Indiana Pacers had trouble finding the bottom of the bucket all night and eventually the Toronto Raptors ran away to secure the win, 101-88.
While the game was frustrating and the loss disappointing, the outcome certainly wasn't unexpected. The Raptors were in a similar situation to the Pacers coming into this game. They had lost five straight which included a coaching change.
As desperate as the Pacers were for a win, the Raptors were equally desperate if not more. They were at home after being embarrassed last night in Cleveland. Plus, with former teammates T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic in town, they had additional incentive to play well.
So, the Pacers would need to play well to win and they played no where near well enough. You don't have to look at the box score for too long to figure out the problem.
The Pacers shot a staggering 33 for 95 from the field. Yep, 95 FGAs produced a paltry 88 points. And they missed them all over the place. Layups, putbacks, runners in the lane, 18-footers on the baseline, 20-footers from the wing, 3-balls (7-25!!!) - there were no hot spots for the Pacers tonight.
Raptors defense made the difference? You can trot out that line of reasoning if you want but my eyes saw way too many clean, open looks go awry. One of those nights. Danny Granger led the clankfest requiring 25 FGAs to squeeze out 22 points on the night. He missed eight 3-balls and only went to the line once for two free throws. Plus, six of his points and two of his three made 3-balls were too late makes with the Pacers down double digits late in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers had one less turnover (Tor 15, Ind 14), outrebounded the Raptors (Ind 52, Tor 47), and matched the Raps at the line (both 15-17). Even the fouls were equal at 21 a piece. But the shooting woes don't tell the whole story. Along with the clanks, the Pacers didn't have much fight once they fell behind. They were real soft with the ball in the lane, giving up too many possessions with an eye on the ref looking for a call. Whether it was losing the handle on the ball or missing a shot around the hoop, the lack of assertiveness with the ball left them begging for calls they really didn't earn.
Now for a few specifics:
- T.J. Ford had an especially tough night. He had no problem getting into the lane early but struggled to finish (join the club) and then by the second half started looking for a call seemingly every time he had the ball. In his defense, Chris Bosh did smack him in the face on one drive to the hoop which did not draw a foul. Still, T.J. had a horrible return to Toronto. He just seemed a little too fired up early and never settled into the type of game he plays best with the Pacers.
- Considering the play of the Pacers brought to Indy in the Jermaine O'Neal trade, Raptor fans certainly weren't feeling any traders' remorse tonight. Along with Ford's tough night (4 points, 4 assists), Rasho Nesterovic had one of his worst outings of the year as well. Four fouls limited him to 16 minutes in which he scored 0 points, with 3 rebounds and 3 assists, but also 3 turnovers.
- As for J.O., it was really strange to see him out there in a Raptors uniform. I haven't seen him play much this year, but the contrast of playing against the Pacers blue and gold took some getting used to. J.O. had a decent night after picking up two quick fouls. He finished with 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
- J.O. also confirmed my delight with the trade. Despite the bad nights from T.J. and Rasho, we know what they're capable of doing on an average and great night. What I was interested in seeing from J.O. was how he looked on the floor. Well, he looked exactly like he did last year and the year prior. The quicks appear gone for good, the lift as well. A good night depends on whether or not the fade away jumper is going. He is a role player with the Raptors right now who will toss in a 20-plus point game a couple times of month if everything goes well. Yep, change is good.
- Once again, Jason Kapono destroyed the Pacers. He's done it for Miami and Toronto. What is it with this guy? Anthony Parker was hurt for the Raptors which opened up extra minutes for Kapono and he took advantage. The guy came into the game averaging 7 ppg and hung 25 on the Pacers.
- Troy Murphy was a bright spot for the Pacers and his solid play kept things closer on the scoreboard than the game actually felt. Murph ended up with a 20-20 double-double. Seriously. The fact that Murph pitched in a 20-20 game and the Pacers still lost by 13, tells you how poorly the Pacers played as a whole.
- Brandon Rush may have earned a few minutes back in the rotation tonight. Stephen Graham struggled a bit (a little too amped up to go against brother, Joey) so Rush was tapped in the first half. He returned to play a pretty good stretch in the second half and finished the game with 6 points. Two of those points were on a great running finish in the lane. It was a real strong move and Brandon really put forth the effort at both ends.
- The Pacers are 7-14 with a game at Detroit on Friday. Certainly they'll have something better to offer the Pistons than what they showed tonight. Hopefully, the clanks will get stuck in customs when the Pacers cross the border to return to the U.S.