The Toronto Raptors tipped off their season at home against the new-look Indiana Pacers tonight. Naturally it took some time for both teams to shake off the rust, as both squads looked like they were involved in not-so-friendly game of pick-up ball. It was clear that the Raptor were struggling early on to adjust to a quicker pace of play with the Pacers electing to start Paul George at the power forward position. The Raptors saw themselves down 16 points early in the game and were able to erase the deficit. The Raptors also saw a scare in the first quarter with big-money free agent acquistion DeMarre Carroll going down with what seemed to be a left wrist injury. The Raptors would get themselves a lead in double digits in the fourth quarter only to blow it in typical Raptors fashion. The Raptors big 3 of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas combined for 69 points.
The offence for the Toronto Raptors looked absolutely atrocious until the third quarter. The Raptors shot only 33% in the opening frame, demonstrating some seriously ugly basketball. The Raptors don’t have many new offensive sets as they reverted to iso-ball on many occasions to get them going. DeMar DeRozan was aggressive early on when the Raptors were struggling to find their rhythm. Toronto committed 20 turnovers – many of which were unforced and a result of a lack of focus. JV was the most efficient player offensively for the Raptors however most of his buckets came as a result of being aggressive on the glass. Dwane Casey deployed a small-ball lineup of Lowry, Cory Joseph, DeRozan, Carrol and JV which sparked the Raptors in the second half to get them back into the game. The Raptors outscored the Pacers 69-54 in the second half.
The Raptors defence on the Pacers was commendable tonight. Earlier on their defence definitely didn’t live up to the offseason hype with the Pacers dropping 30 on the Raptors during the opening frame. However the Raptors managed tighten up their rotations and hold the Pacers to shooting under 30% in the next quarter. Once the Raptors got into their defensive sets they clearly started frustrating some of the Pacers perimeter players. DeMarre Carroll is a revelation on the defensive side of the court. Carroll was able to hold George to only 4 for 17 shooting forcing the likes of C.J Miles and Rodney Stuckey to beat the Raptors. The Raptors still have a lot of work to do, especially in terms of their transition defence. There’s no reason for three players to defend the ball handler on the fast-break. Even if something as foolish as that should occur there’s no way that player should finish the layup at the rim.
The Raptors were great on the glass today. Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola and Carroll combined for 31 rebounds. Bismack Biyombo also came off the bench and crashed the boards early in the fourth helping the Raptors earn that double digit lead. The Raptors were plus 10 on the glass against the Pacers, however that’s probably due to the lack of size upfront for Indiana.
Game Ball: Jonas Valanciunas
Tonight’s game ball goes to Raptors’ centre Jonas Valanciunas. JV finished with a solid 21 point and 14 rebounds to snag his first double-double of the young season. Jonas Valanciunas was one of the lone bright spots for the Raptors when things were looking bleak early on. Even in his fourth season, JV still doesn’t command the respect from the officials as there were a few phantom fouls called on the big man. Other than that, great all around game from Valanciunas – let’s hope we see more of him in the fourth quarter this season.