10 things I saw from Raptors-Pacers (seriously how many times are we playing the Pacers?)

  1. Context matters: The Pacers were a frustrated bunch playing for their playoff lives. Meanwhile, the Raptors are rolling and they’ve relaxed a bit on defense — especially since the Magic game. Toronto raced out to a 19-point lead, but the Pacers came out motivated in the second half and ran away with it. They really did want it more and with all due credit, the Pacers are substantially better at home.
  2. What to worry about: The Raptors played individually, not together when things got rough. The Pacers came at them with wave after wave of aggression, and for a while DeMar DeRozan returned every punch. But down the stretch the Raptors showed little cohesion on either end, following up forced offensive sets with miscues on defense, and that is a major concern. This resembled many of the losses in January.
  3. What you want to see … is their effort in Charlotte, when they trusted each other to make a comeback, or the Celtics win on ESPN, when they defended as a five-man unit. What separates good from great teams is how they respond in adverse moments.
  4. No help: Serge Ibaka was terrible. He bricked so many threes it was like he was Patrick Patterson, who also bricked so many threes. Norman Powell was pressing like crazy, Jonas Valanciunas was lethargic and inattentive on defense (Thad Young is left handed, b) while PJ Tucker was suspect on both ends. One man can’t win it alone.
  5. Homecoming: Sometimes you need a jolt of energetic randomness, and Lance Stephenson provided just that. Lance received a standing ovation in his first home game as a Pacer, then breathed life into (not LeBron’s ear) the Pacers as they made the comeback. Lance was like their spirit animal, getting everyone hype and talking shit to the Raptors. He even shoved PJ Tucker to the ground once. He got them fired up.
  6. Extracurriculars: Lance being Lance, he went too far. He scored a pointless layup with 3.3 seconds remaining in a 16-point game when the Raptors were going to dap up the Pacers. This sparked a meeting of minds, with Tucker, DeMarre Carroll and DeMar DeRozan getting at Lance before technicals were dished out.
  7. It keeps going: Lance sheepishly apologized for the play, but the Raptors didn’t hear it and shit all over him. Tucker, DeRozan and even Dwane Casey said Lance was “ùnprofessional”, “bush league” and pretended like they didn’t know who he was.
  8. Unwritten rules: Generally speaking, they’re dumb. Either make it a rule or stop expecting the game to be played that way. But in the heat of the moment, when frustrations are boiling over and Lance is pulling shit every play, anger takes over and you’re not going to act rationally. You’re looking to be disrespected so you can react.
  9. Two options: When Lance scored the layup, the Raptors could have took the extra L and kept it moving, or stood up for themselves. I like the spirit, even if it came from something so unnecessary.
  10. Anyone up for a Raptors-Pacers rematch?