10 things I saw from Raptors-Pacers (Dec. 1)

  1. Gritty win: The Raptors overcame some difficult circumstances to hold off a hard-charging Pacers team that were utterly relentless when given free reign to grab, hold, push, pull, tackle by the officials who had a consistently inconsistent whistle.
  2. Team effort: Everyone can feel like they contributed something tonight. The Raptors moved the ball beautifully for 29 assists and shared the wealth with seven players in double-digits. This came because they had two units that could get a bucket on the soft interior Pacers defense whenever they wanted.
  3. Bullshit: I feel for Fred VanVleet. Even when I was watching this one on replay I found myself screaming at the officials for their inhumane treatment of FVV, who was hammered repeatedly on his drives to the basket, yet he somehow took no free throws. Victor Oladipo was hand-checking him the entire time, putting or or two hands on him to block his freedom of motion, yet when FVV checked Oladipo the same way at the start of the fourth, Oladipo went to the line to shoot free throws on the rip-through move that were explicitly legislated out of the game this year.
  4. Enough: I begged for Dwane Casey to take a tech sometime in the third quarter when bad calls erased two layups by Lowry. But since the coach let it ride, the calls kept going one way, and Lowry had finally seen enough late in the game after he got kicked in the face, then wiped out by a moving screen which freed his man for a three. It had been a mess up until that point and someone had to say something.
  5. Efficient: Jakob Poeltl was incredible as he shot a perfect 8–8 for a career-high 18 points. Poeltl is the glue that holds the second unit together, as he somehow always sneaks into open pockets to finish dump-off passes from his point guard. He screens effectively to generate space, he’s as nimble as he is relentless, and he has soft hands that allow him to catch and finish in tight spaces. His footwork has also improved on the roll, as he rarely needs to take a dribble to get to a layup.
  6. Rebounding: The second unit did a great job on defense and helped establish a lead in the fourth, but perhaps they were left in a little too long, because the Pacers started feasting on the offensive glass. Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis constantly crashed for second-chance points, especially when switched defenses left mismatches that saw guards boxing out. Pascal Siakam needs to do better here.
  7. Steady: Can’t say enough about how much FVV has blossomed in the last few weeks. It’s like having another Lowry on the floor just for the second unit. He shares many of the same attributes: scrappy defender, willing passer, capable driver, and increasingly capable finisher when he gets the body into the shot blocker. More importantly, he just doesn’t turn the ball over. The three is also dropping.
  8. Balance: There is still an adjustment period for C.J. Miles and Norman Powell as they learn to trade off №1 option duties with the bench. Miles is shooting everytime he touches the ball, which has made Powell into more of a distributor, except when he decides to take over and backs out to the logo for some reason.
  9. Welcome home: Thanks to Cory Joseph for putting on a pretty poor showing against his hometown club. He’s been playing well this season, so I can only assume he tanked this one out of love while being outplayed by FVV.
  10. Tony Brothers looks like a catfish with hard eyebrows.