This will be one of many times we say this this year: “That’s why they play the games.”
You never know what will happen in pro sports, you might have a pretty good idea, but things happen. The Raptors had no business beating the Pacers last night. They almost played a doubleheader the night before, two starters (including the team’s best player, Kyle Lowry) and a key reserve remained sidelined, Andrea Bargnani was horrendous on offence and Indiana was well-rested and unbeaten at home.
But, Jose Calderon was a force and the Raptors rallied after a smart Dwane Casey timeout early to outplay the Pacers and eventually, hang on for the win (admit it, most of you thought Indy would find a way, maybe a Roy Hibbert three?)
Speaking of Hibbert, he looks awful. Not sure if he’s trying to justify the contract like Landry Fields, but this isn’t the same player we’ve seen the past two years. Maybe he really misses Danny Granger?
As for the Raptors, the triple double was better than the 17 assist game the night before. Against Utah, Calderon had too many turnovers throughout the game, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter and couldn’t keep Mo Williams in front of him. In this one, he got the mistakes out of the way early and was masterful. His emotion afterwards said it all. Finally.
Would have liked to see more of Jonas Valanciunas down the stretch again, but understand that Amir Johnson was playing extremely well. But how about taking out Bargnani, who is really hurting the team at the moment? I realize that lineup would be really bad offensively, but it would lock down teams at the other end and it wasn’t like the Raptors were scoring much late anyways (5 points in the fourth quarter, a franchise-low).
With every passing game it becomes more evident that Bargnani needs to go. It’s also clear that he’s not in top shape. He probably needs to start playing decently again to up his trade value and the jury is out on whether Bryan Colangelo will ever deal him, but it has to happen for the team to take the step forward it needs.
While DeRozan’s night statistically wasn’t outstanding, he was solid again and he deserves all kinds of credit for going hard for 40 minutes a night after playing 60. Ah, young legs. At some point, DeRozan is going to get some calls from the officials. As it is, he is one of the league leaders in free throw attempts (even though he deserves two more trips a game) and is the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer among shooting guards.
Valanciunas made a huge impact early. He frustrated Hibbert at both ends and his activity really fired up the Raptors.
Fellow rookie Terrence Ross had his best night yet. He looked more comfortable and his jump shot remains picture perfect. Was impressed with his defence as well. Like Valanciunas, he was active and filled a lot of gaps. His speed and jumping ability really help him on defence. Think he’s going to start seeing some more minutes.