The Toronto Raptors had as thorough a game as I have ever seen in their 101-85 victory over the Indiana Pacers. DeMar DeRozan found his touch again scoring 21 and DeMarre Carroll had his best game since returning from injury with 17 points and 5 rebounds. As dominate a game as Toronto had, and boy was it dominate, the rest of this first round will still not be easy. So let’s take a look at two things they did right like defence, the play of their bigs, and one of those things they can never do right, like holding on to a lead.
Toronto’s defence was the best I have seen in the post season. There were stretches there, especially in the first half, where they were downright ruthless. They forced 16 turnovers, had 6 steals and really contested many of the Pacer shots. Paul George did finish with 25 points and was 4 assists away from a triple double, but the Raptors did a great job of making his life difficult. In fact the only player other than George that has been giving them problems is rookie Myles Turner. The Raps have had no answer for this kid as he scored 17 and had 8 boards.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 22, 2016
It was a true team performance on perimeter defence and something we should keep an eye on the rest of the series. The Pacers were 6/33 from behind the arc but even half of those came in the last few minutes when the game was out of reach. Even Paul George didn’t hit one till late in the game. The Raptors have been good protecting the paint with both Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo, but the perimeter defence was something special. A lot of it may have to do with Carroll playing 35 minutes and if he can keep that up for the rest of the playoffs, this could be a special run.
I had mentioned how the Raptor big men can protect the paint, but their performance has been so much more. We have witnessed the coming out party of Valanciunas as he has been a monster on the boards. He had 14 this game and that has been his lowest total. Biyombo, Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola have all contributed and the four of them combined for 28 boards compared to 14 for the Indiana big men. That is dominance.
"Let's Go Raptors!" chants all over the arena. pic.twitter.com/Fte6FuCqfj
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) April 22, 2016
We have to acknowledge that the Indiana Pacers had a tough game and let their emotions get the better of them as they had three technical fouls. It was nice to see the Raptors keep their composure because even though they didn’t get a technical, they did have 27 personal fouls compared to 18 for the Pacers. This gave Indiana a 33 to 16 advantage in Free Throw Attempts, which is something Toronto is normally very good at. But the one thing they are horrible at is they don’t know how to hold onto a lead.
How many of you were worried even when they had a 17 point lead at halftime? For me, I was still nervous when they had an 18 point lead with 8:51 left in the 4th. After all, they are a Toronto team and they always make us nervous. It has been the same issue throughout their history as the Raptors can’t kick a team when they are down. They find a way to let the other team build some confidence and then the Dinos get nervous and tighten up which now causes that 8-2 run turn into an 18-4 run and the team is back in the game. Toronto finally gets its act together and it becomes punch/counterpunch the rest of the game. For example, Game 5 versus Brooklyn two years ago when they had a 23 point lead and instead of cruising to victory, they gave us a heart attack as they won a nail biter.
It shouldn’t be that way. You know the other team will make a run, they always do. You need to prepare to make that final commitment that you will not let their run, run over you.
Probably the best example of how to do that are the Golden State Warriors as they don’t just beat you, they beat you up. They take a 10 point lead and turn it into 20. They then can take a 20 point lead and stretch it to 30. They do this usually by the 4th quarter and therefore can rest players like Steph Curry, Clay Thompson and Draymond Green. This allowed them to stay fresh in their record breaking 73 win season.
I know, I know what you are going to say. The Warriors are unique, heck they are one of the top teams of all time so it’s unfair to compare the Raps to them. You are correct and therefore I am not trying to compare them at all. What I am trying to do is show you how good the Raptors can be if they adopt that killer mind set for the rest of these playoffs. Should be a fun ride the rest of the way, hope you have an opportunity to enjoy it.
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