It seemed like the Raptors could turn it up a notch at will versus the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in part due to Jonas Valanciunas’ dominance over Roy Hibbert on the glass. The Raptors out-rebounded the Pacers 52-39 as Valanciunas tore down 14 boards on route to his third consecutive double-double while Hibbert was held to just 6 points and 2 rebounds.
“One of our main emphases going in was our rebounding,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “To out-rebound a team like Indiana which is very physical and a paint-oriented team – to beat them 52-39, my hat’s off to our guys because that’s what we’ve been preaching.”
The Raptors also outscored the Pacers in the paint 50-32 and won easily 106-94.
Toronto got out to an early 12-4 advantage and led 28-20 after the first quarter in a game Indiana never really seemed to have a chance in. The Pacers are the league’s second best rebounding team, but on this night it was the Raptors controlling the glass and turning those extra possessions into points. Toronto was led by Lou Williams off the bench with a game-high 26 points as the Raptors reserves poured in 64 points and the starters took much of the night off. Kyle Lowry sat the entire fourth quarter as Williams and Greivis Vasquez took care of business.
“We had a chance to rest tonight,” Lowry said. “Lou (Williams) played well. G (Vasquez) played well. JJ (James Johnson) played well. Pat (Patterson) – those guys, when they come in and give us that type of lift, it is always fortunate for us to be able to kind of relax and (let) those guys take over.”
Valanciunas played the longest of the Raptors starters at 27.2 minutes to collect his 10 points and 14 rebounds and he was his team’s only starter to score in double digits. Patterson was solid with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Vasquez, still reeling from the effects of the flu, scored all 10 of his points in the second half in quite possibly the only game he has never smiled in after making a big shot or a layup – Vasquez quite literally looked wobbly in the first quarter. James Johnson had the highlight reel driving dunk of the night and seemed to be able to get to the rim at will as he chipped in with 13 points.
The injury-riddled Pacers used yet another starting lineup, but their slow starts and inability to put up points continues to haunt them. The Pacers average about 93.5 points and scored 94 in this game. That level of offense just isn’t going to generate many wins.
Solomon Hill led the Pacers with 16 points off the bench. Starters CJ Watson and Rodney Stuckey scored 13 points apiece and David West scored 12 points and collected a team high 7 boards. CJ Miles bruised his knee and didn’t play in the second half.
The Raptors head to New York on Sunday for a game against the Knicks who snapped a 10 game losing streak in Boston on Friday night.
The Pacers losing streak has advanced to 7 games and they are returning home to face a very good Trail Blazers team on Saturday.
“For me personally it is way better to play against a typical center, a big guy who is in the paint wrestling because I do the same thing, for me (that) is much easier,” Valanciunas said. “It’s tough. It’s tough. I am not used to going (out to) the three-point line and cover stretch big guys who can really shoot the ball. I just don’t like that. I am not fast enough.”
Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has said he won’t do anything crazy this year, however, pursuing a trade for the Nets 38-year-old future Hall-of-Fame veteran big man Kevin Garnett isn’t crazy and could just be the missing piece to a Raptors season on the verge of exceeding everyone’s expectations.
The current combined record of the Raptors next 6 opponents is 35 wins and 101 loses. That should translate into 6 wins in a row for Toronto. Merry Christmas.