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Sorry I’m a bit late on posting this, but let’s face it – I’m not sure you were exactly chomping at the bit to read about another narrow but sloppy loss by the Raptors (4-8), this time a 95-90 defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.
The autopsy on this loss, Toronto’s fifth in their past six games, will show a much-needed big game from DeMar DeRozan, but also a late-game fade that saw them cough up a double-digit lead in the second half, thanks in large part to missing eight of 15 fourth quarter free throws.
DeMar Finds It (For One Night, At Least)
So what if DeRozan was just so-so after a strong first quarter (14 points on 5-6 shooting)? A stat line that reads 23 points and features more shots made (eight) than missed (seven) should be considered nothing but a positive for the two-guard. If the 22-year old remains unable to sustain a high level of energy throughout all four quarters, it could become an issue down the road. But for one game, DeRozan was able to fill the scoring void left by Andrea Bargnani’s calf injury and, in doing so, managed to snap out of a recent scoring slump.
Superb Backcourt Play
DeRozan wasn’t the only guard to step up on Friday. Jose Calderon posted 15 of his own points while contributing nine assists in what has quietly been an exceptional start to the season, Leandro Barbosa shouldered his share of the scoring load with 20 points off the bench (although he and DeRozan still clearly haven’t quite figured out how to play off eachother) and even Gary Forbes got into the action with some steady point guard play backing up Calderon. Forbes hardly produced anything flashy, but he didn’t miss a shot (2-2) and got to the line three times in just over seven minutes of action.
Free Throw Woes
Prowess from the charity stripe isn’t exactly the biggest issue plaguing this club (probably doesn’t rank in the top five), but it’s still awfully ugly to see a team compete and keep the game within reach, only to have poor free throw shooting be their undoing. The fourth quarter inconsistency was just part of a bigger problem that saw the Raptors finish 20-32 (62.5%) from the line, compared to the Pacers’ 32-38 (84.2%). Four Raptors finished with at least two missed free throws, with none being worse than Jamaal Magloire, who managed more air-balled freebies (two) than attempts made (one).
That’s Your Play Call??
Fourteen seconds to go with Toronto trailing by three and coming out of a timeout, Barbosa inbounds to Magloire, who is promptly fouled and sent to the line by an alert David West. Sure enough, Magloire promptly misses both (including one of the aforementioned air balls) and puts an end to any hopes of a Raptors’ comeback. That Magloire received the ball played perfectly into Indiana’s game plan, as they were leaving him uncovered in hopes that they might catch him off the inbounds. On one hand, it represents a clever ploy by a club taking advantage of Toronto’s lack of depth up front. On the other hand, the Raptors simply can’t be caught off-guard like that in the dying moments of a close game.
Davis/Johnson Can’t Stay on the Floor
Bargnani may not be missed on the defensive end, but he does provide six additional fouls that the Raptors apparently need in order to keep Ed Davis and Amir Johnson on the floor. Both men saw less playing time than Dwane Casey would have liked on account of foul trouble, leaving Magloire to play over 20 minutes and both James Johnson and Linas Kleiza to see time out of position (neither A. Johnson or Davis had much of an impact, while all three back-ups struggled).
- Hard to know if Danny Granger still fosters resentment towards Toronto for Barbosa’s late lay-up attempt in an already-decided Toronto win last season, or if he was just having one of those days. After picking up a first quarter technical foul on what he believed was a non-call on a loose ball foul by Davis, he earned himself a taunting tech (and an ejection) after blocking a Davis shot in the second quarter. Indiana couldn’t have been to disappointed in seeing their teammate go, considering Granger was 1-8 from the floor at that point. Otherwise, however, there were no incidents between the clubs.
- With the win, the Pacers tied the all-time series between the teams a 16-16.
Welcome to the 2011-12 shortened NBA schedule, where enduring a string of four games in five nights is rewarded with an immediate follow-up game in Chicago to face the league-leading Bulls (8:00pm, TSN2).
Keep an Eye on:
1) … the United Center edge. Yeah, it’s tough to win in Chicago. The Bulls hold a 4-0 record at home this year, having won their games by an average of more than 21 points. Nay-sayers can point to the fact that the stat was padded by a 40-point victory over Memphis, but still: they beat Memphis by 40 points!!
2) … questionable depth. Believe it or not, there is something that Chicago and Toronto have in common: both clubs lack rotational depth. For a Bulls team eyeing an NBA title run, it is hardly ideal to have Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik as your primary options off the bench (until Rip Hamilton gets healthy, anyway). Against Boston last night, Carlos Boozer played the fewest minutes of any Bulls starter and still wound up over 34.
The Pick: Bulls 105, Raptors 94 (4-1 this season)