Even though the Toronto Raptors shoud be tanking according to early season predictions, they’ve beaten the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the span of two weeks, making it to .500 for the first time in almost four years.
Maybe it was the Rudy Gay trade that suddenly turned everyting a whole lot simpler for the Raptors, with one volume shooting permieter player and a bunch of players simply raising their level to something no one actually expected to see from them.
Tge most surprising aspect has been their defense, holding the Indiana Pacers to only 19 points in the final quarter, leading to a 95-82 win. Terrence Ross scored 18 points on 6-of-12 from the field, but his biggest accomplishment was the defense on Paul George. MVP candidates can have rough nights, but they’re supposed to do better than 5-of-14 from the field, finishing with 12 points.
The Raptors were also very aggressive, not afraid to push the ball inside to Valanciunas and Amir Johnson while DeMar DeRozan kept trying to score from everywhere. It stretched out the Pacers’ defense, and fouled out Roy Hibbert. The Pacers were losing by four points with him on the floor, but by doube digits in the 27 minutes they had to play without him.
It’s a great win. We’re executing our game plan and we’re locked in. We’re going to go out there and battle with the best of them. We don’t care who is out there in front of us, we understand that they are going to throw a punch and we’re going to throw punches back.
So the Raptors get rid of their two most expensive players over the last four months and get better? That seems to be the formula. When this season began it seemed like they were another team on the lookout for many losses and a high as possible draft pick. Now, things seem a little different, and although there are many who seem to think the Raptors are looking to trade players like Lowry (13 points, 14 assists) or even DeRozan (26 points, 9 rebounds, 9-of-24 from the field), what we’re seeing on the court is completely different.
The Pacers? They seemed slightly stunned that they picked up their sixth loss of the season, bringing the Miami Heat a little bit closer to them. Paul George’s incredible form has halted slightly recently, and it seems like some teams, with the right kind of player to put on him, have figured him out. The Pacers simply thought it wasn’t their night, giving plenty of credit to the Raptors and their defense.
They played better than us tonight. Normally we come out and have a tremendous third and fourth quarter, but tonight, they hit first. We’re normally a team that hits first. We’re a smashmouth team. They came in and brought the pressure and turned us over more than we’re normally getting turned over.
They initiated it. We turned the ball over, we weren’t doing our defensive assignments. They were the better team tonight, I can honestly say that. I thought their energy was amazing. Defensively, they played the style that we play. They just helped one another.