If it was said that the Pacers would still be in the playoff hunt and the Raptors would not be at this point most would have laughed at the start of the season. However that is the reality of things. Not that the Pacers have a very good shot at the playoffs. They sit in 13th place just one spot ahead of the Raptors but only 2 games out of the final playoff spot in the East. A terrible road record has held the Pacers back with only 9 wins on the road. They have already lost in Toronto. A game that T.J struggled in and he admitted that the fact Sam Mitchell had been fired impacted on him and took some motivation away from him. Jose Calderon became the all time leader in assists for the Raptor Franchise. That being said T.J Ford has had a better season than Jose Calderon. When you consider the direction this team has gone you have to wonder why Ford had to go. In a running style system give me Ford as my point guard. Not to mention that the Raptors have lost 7 straight heading into this Sunday afternoon tilt with the Pacers. In happier more optimistic times, I had targeted this point of schedule as a chance for the Raptors to make up ground. It seemed reasonable the Raptors could have gone 12-3 down the stretch. Games against the Magic, Hawks and Sixers were games the Raptors would have been hard pressed to win. Now you wonder if they can even snap this losing streak against the Pacers and then a back to back with the Bobcats. Charlotte actually has been making a playoff push of their own and has been one of the hotter teams in the East of late. Well they were, 3 straight losses after a 5 or 6 game winning streak. The one thing I can say for sure is a view more people respect T.J Ford more than the last time he rolled through Toronto. That does make me feel good as someone that is a fan of T.J. However there is nothing that can make me feel that good considering the season this has been. I have kind of taken it easy this weekend because what more can you say about this team that has not already been said by everyone at this point. We all expected far much more, a win or loss today will not change that fact. Another fact is that a month from today this Raptor Season will be over far sooner than anyone might have expected when this started in late October.
Late word that Danny Granger will be active today for the Pacers. That will make the task a tougher one for the Raptors indeed. Oh and joy the Raptors are busting out those ugly green uniforms. Also after battling with the flu over last couple games Andrea Bargnani will be in the starting line-up.
Raps win the tip and off we go. Bosh missed a fading jumper. Indiana failed to score on it's first possession as well. Bargnani missed on an easy lay up. Both teams were of to an awful start. A steal and score for T.J Ford and Calderon matches with a jumper on the other end. Pacers would get back to back baskets. Daniels would turn it over and AP would get the easy score in transition. Pacers would get another Ford bucket. This one would be answered by Bargnani. Murphy and Bosh would exchange baskets. Ford would miss a 3 pointer but later hit a fading shot in the lane. Pacers lead 12-8 at the mid point of the first quarter. Bargnani would get a score in the paint. He would get another basket on a Calderon feed in transition. Make it 3 in a row for Bargnani and Raptors take the lead 14-12.
Dainels would answer and tie it up for the Pacers. He would make it back to back baskets and Pacers were up 2. Anthony Parker would make a jumper and it was all tied at 16. Ford had 6 points and Calderon had 4 dimes. A terrible stretch of misses for the Raps as both Bosh and Graham had several chances to score and could not. Pacer make them pay with a 3 ball. Pops Mensah-Bonsu checks in and he impacts the game right a way with a jam for 2. Pops in a bright light in an otherwise dark time for the Raptors. There are not many people I can honestly endorse to return to this team who has a contract due this off-season, but Pops in one that I can say that I hope he returns next year. Rush makes a 3 pointer after a time out for the Pacers. Jarrett Jack the former teammate of Chris Bosh at Georgia Tech scores and Pacers lead 24-18. Danny Granger had checked in off the bench and missed his first. Raptors get back to back baskets from Calderon and Kapono and the lead was cut to 24-22. Kapono would score again and it was tied at 24. In a forgettable season for Kapono one of his best games of the season was against these Pacers on the ACC floor. I was in the house for that one and JK was very good on that night. Granger draws the foul and can give the Pacers the lead back which he would making both at the line. Calderon tried to shoot it or was it a pass to Pops Mensah-Bonsu? Regardless it did not work and the Pacer would lead 26-24 after 1 at the ACC.
Not one 3 point attempt for the Raptors in the first that is odd. Both teams shooting 44% and it was a close contest so far. The second quarter starts with a Granger charge drawn by Pops. Bosh was struggling and had a shot blocked but Pops Mensah-Bonsu would clean it up with a basket. The Pacers would answer and go back up 2 points. A.P draws a foul and makes both at the line. Danny Granger would get going with a basket. Sloppy play by both teams and several turnovers. Pops Mensah-Bonsu would go up strong and draw a foul. He would make both foul shots and we were tied at 30. Granger was getting his legs back after significant time off the floor. He made another basket and pushed the Pacers back in front by 2. Meanwhile the Raptors All Star CB4 was struggling going 1-8 on the day and not able to find anything that would work for him at this point.
Danny Granger was showing no rust as her nailed a 3 pointer. Raptors would answer with a 2 point effort. Andrea Bargnani would follow that up with a 3 pointer and we were tied at 35. Jack would match that 3 ball with one for the Pacers. His Georgia Tech mate CB4 would draw a foul and head to the line. Making a pair and he had only 6 points so far for the Raptors. The struggles would continue with a missed jumper and Troy Murphy would make the Raptors pay with back to back 3's. Pacers stormed out in front 44-37. Raptors offense looked a mess and they would fumble and bumble there way to another turnover. Daniels would draw a foul on Shawn Marion who also was having a very poor effort thus far. Daniels would make a pair at the line.
Illegal defense call and Calderon would make the tech and make a jumper on the possession that would follow. After some free throws from Jack and Bosh it would be Jose Calderon making a jumper and he would pull the Raptors to down 5 with the score 47-42. Calderon having a good first half with 8 points 7 assists and 2 steals. However that being said the Pacers were leading. Chris Bosh looking to get back on track would get a dunk off a Kapono feed. The Pacers were letting the lead they build slip away. Bargnani would draw a foul on Danny Granger and look to cut the lead more. He would make both and Pacers lead was just 47-46. Jack was fouled and split a pair from the line. Bargnani would be fouled and at the line again missed both though and Raptors remained down two. Pacer fail to take advantage and Bargnani would make them pay with a 3 ball to put the Raptors in front. Brandon Rush would put up a 3 pointer and miss. In some ways watching the Pacers is like looking in a mirror to how the Raptors can play offensively. Calderon would be fouled and make a pair at the line. Bosh continued to fight through a tough day missing a easy one inside but got his own rebound and through that one down. Ford on the other end would break a Pacer offensive drought. Ford had a chance to tie the score at the half with a 3 point attempt off a Raptors turnover but it would not fall. Raptors lead 53-50 at the half.
At The Half
The Ford and Calderon battle. Calderon 10 points, 8 assists and 2 steals, Ford 8 points, 5 assists and a steal. Calderon when asked about the battle between the two players he down played it and praised Ford. Something tells me if the question had been asked of Ford you would get a different answer. I do agree there is not a personal dislike between the two but let's face it this is a match-up that will be focused on for years to come. But beyond that battle Andrea Bargnani and Troy Murphy were having a mice contest of their own with Bargnani with 16 and Murphy with 14. The other story of the half was the Raptors has a slim lead despite Bosh being a 4-13 shooting effort with 11 points. He was active on the glass with 8 rebounds. Given the way the Raptors have played of late it is anybodies guess if they can hang on to this lead. If the Pacers have any real chance at the post season this is a game they must have.
Raptor lead is 3. Well it was as Jack opens the half with a 3 ball. Jose Calderon would answer with a 3 of his own to restore the Raptors 3 point lead. Shawn Marion would get a score plus a foul and Raptors after the Marion make would have a 6 point lead. That was Marion's first points of the afternoon. Jack would miss a open look in the corner for 3. Ford would miss on a leaner but would find the ball back in his hands and make a shot in the lane. Raptors had a quick answer for that with an Anthony Parker score the other way. Pacers a turnover and they now looked like an offense with no direction. 3's were flying all over the ACC but not many were falling. Jack and Calderon the latest to miss from the arc. Foster and Bargnani would both score on the inside. Ford would make another score. But Bargnani would find a mismatch against Ford and hit a 3 pointer with Ford on him not able to do much. Raptors had a 66-59 lead. Pacers would look to go inside and that would lead to getting to the line. They would hit 4 free throws and cut lead down. But Raptors would be energized by Shawn Marion in transition with a great jam plus a foul. Raptors had an 8 point lead with score 71-63. Calderon would hook Marion on an alley opp and it was converted. Raptors had a 10 point lead with score 73-63.
Give the Raptors credit for the effort and energy. As for the Pacers if this is how they respond to a mush win game like this for them, they will be accepting that they are going to have a seat in the NBA Lottery with the Raptors. Marion with 8 points in the quarter after 0 in the first 2. A Bargnani block and Marion could no convert on the transition chance for Marion. Ford would score and get fouled and make it. That gave Ford 15 on the afternoon. Bargnani would get fouled and make a pair at the line. Yet another Pacer turnover and Shawn Marion would draw the foul on the transition break. He made both at the line and the Raptors lead 77-66. Danny Granger had cooled off and he was short on a jumper. Indiana was giving the Raptors chances and they were taking advantage of a lot of them. Bargnani got the offensive rebound off a Kapono miss and slammed it back home. Raptors leading by 13 now with the score 79-66. Could the losing streak be coming to an end? It sure seemed like it at this point. The Pacers looked awful and the Raptors were looking the best they have in a very long time. Calderon after 2 of his worst efforts of the season has had 2 of his best. While Bargnani has 25 points and I now truly am a believer in Andrea Bargnani. He has just been to good for to long to doubt him any longer. Raptors run was on going as they would keep adding to it. Raptors lead 83-66. Travis Diener would finally get a basket for the Pacers. Calderon would check out with 15 points and 12 assists. Raptors lead was 18, make it 20 as Bosh would go inside and score. Raptors lead 88-68 and you have to ask yourself what the heck is going on here on both sides. Roko Ukic would close out a quarter that saw the Raptors out score the Pacers 37-19 with a drive and score. Raptors lead 90-69.
Raptors were shooting 50% and the Pacers just 39%. If you are thinking it is the green uniforms the Raptors lost the only other game they played in green. That feature a T.J Ford meltdown that saw him ejected. On this afternoon Ford had to feel dejected as he was one of few Pacers that decided to show up today. Pops Mensah-Bonsu had an alley opp jam and this game was going to be a win. Raptors leading 94-71 and there was no way they were going to lose this one. Seriously if they did I think the Raptor Rewind would just be put in moth balls for the year. But I am not expecting to have to do that.
Travis Diener hits a 3 pointer and maybe makes you worry just a little. But Pops would answer with a dunk a career high 13 so far for him. Pops averaged over 20 in the D-League so he can put the ball in the basket. He was the main contributor off the bench toady. Pops took a shot from Roy Hibbert and would had to his career high at the line. He would not be done by a long shot with a jam plus a foul that would deliver the pizza. Raptors lead was 100-76 and Pacers were melting down before our eyes. Pops got a well deserved standing ovation from the crowd. A steal and an A.P jam. Everyone for once was happy at the ACC. I think everyone from players to management to Dino Bloggers all needed a game like this. Does it change anything as far as this season? No but that being said just as being human the toll of losing can be a lot to endure. At least if for just one Sunday there can be some reason to smile about the Raptors. It is going to be a very happy flight to Charlotte for the Raptors. It will be interesting to see if they can carry this momentum over to a rare Monday night affair with the Bobcats. The Raptors had still 5:32 left to enjoy this one as they led 104-76. The Pops show marched on and so did the Raptors. Pops had 21 points and Raptors had a 110-84 lead. A rare event at the ACC this year as the fans would offer a standing ovation down the stretch. It would be a 110-87 final.
The Ford and Calderon battle both had 15 points but Calderon had 12 assists to Ford's 6 and 2 steals as opposed to 1 steal. That being said even the 27 points and 9 rebounds of Andrea Bargnani took a back seat today to Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Seriously can Bryan Colangelo avoid not re-signed this guy? He is part of whatever solution that Colangelo is going to have for this basketball team going forward. He almost has to be at this point. The JYD of the Y2K is bringing a dawg pound back to the ACC. Somewhere Jerome Williams in barking his approval. Here is the boxscore of a very excellent Raptor victory and you have not been able to say that many times this season at all.
So in a season with few moments to celebrate enjoy this one Raptor Fans we have all earned it.