Someone must have known.
Before last night’s Raptor game, a gospel choir warmed up the Air Canada Centre crowd. As the players were introduced the men and women sang…
“We are not afraid.
“We are not afraid.”
Turns out no one was.
Do not adjust your set, Raptor fans. What you are seeing seems to be real and if the result is heartbreaking – the Raptors once led by 11, the singers had a point.
The Raptors were the hammer and not the nail in a wildly entertaining contest won by the visitors thanks to a running eight-footer from Pacers guard George Hill.
David West scored 14 fourth quarter points and banked 25 overall to lead the Pacers. Kyle Lowry finished with 21 points and eight assists along with seven rebounds and five steals.
One game and 10,000 light years removed from last season, the 2012 Raptors gambol about the court. Jonas Valanciunas was entangled in the low post like a wool sweater in a barbed-wire fence.
Valanciunas finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but the dominant memory will be of the kid hanging over Roy Hibbert who at 7-foot-2 and 280 pounds occupies his own area code. Hibbert looked like he was trying to shake free from a piece of clingy dental floss.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, pitched himself into the heart of Pacers defence, always around the ball and commanding whatever moment he chose.
For fun, this blog was written without the usual safety net of quotations. I’m giving you what I saw and what I saw was attitude.
“We are not afraid.”
The Raptors led 71-63 after three.
Up three early in the fourth, the Raptors were leaking oil. Lowry came sin off the bench, jams the ball down the throat of the defence and drew the foul and ripped down the free throws.
The Pacers crawled even with a minute left. DeRozan missed a four-footer and then they were awarded the ball with 22 seconds to play allowing Hill to convert a runner for the 90-88 final.
Bargnani missed a falling twisting 12-footer and finished with a quiet 16 points.
There is, of course, ample work here. Landry Fields missed all six of his field goal attempts and dragged down a paltry two rebounds. Amir Johnson attempted three shots well outside his range and wasn’t a real factor. John Lucas managed only one shot and no points in a short five minutes of work.
DeRozan finished with just 10 points on the night he signed his contract extension for four more years.
Clearly, experience favored the Pacers who outscored the Raps 27-17 over the final frame. The Raptors were inefficient in close and shot just 36.3 per cent overall compared to 47.4 per cent for Indiana. The inexperienced starting five, Fields, Bargnani, Valanciunas, DeRozan and Lowry struggled to defend.