Game Preview: Raptors vs. Pacers
The Raptors are back in Toronto following a comeback victory against the Detroit Pistons on Friday. They'll take on the Indiana Pacers who are coming off an up-and-down week much like Toronto's. After a disappointing loss at the Garden to the Knicks, the Pacers bounced back to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 98-77 on their home floor.
Tip-off: 6:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / SN590
After a disappointing home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, the Raptors held court in their locker room, discussing the game that was and what had to happen next. Less than 24 hours later, they found themselves trailing by six to the Detroit Pistons to open the fourth quarter. As the Pistons stretched their advantage to seven points with 9:31 remaining in the game, the words from the previous night became actions. Toronto went on a 24-3 run to close the game, holding the Pistons to just nine fourth quarter points as they recorded a much-needed comeback victory on the road in the second game of a back-to-back.
Following the game, the team's veteran players talked about needing more of the same in the days to come.
"Now it's about doing it Sunday," DeMar DeRozan said. "Then after that, and after that. Keep building."
Talking, talking, talking
P.J. Tucker played the entire fourth quarter against Pistons. For the duration of his time on the floor, he was talking. Talking to his teammates about defence. Talking to his teammates about offence. Telling them what was coming next, where he was going and where they should be. Tucker's constant stream of communication and chatter started to rub off on his teammates and DeMar DeRozan's defence picked up as a result.
On a night where DeRozan wasn't scoring like usual, he affected the game in other ways, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while locking down his man defensively.
"Probably the best defence I have seen him play," P.J. Tucker said of DeRozan's game.
Having a direct, no-nonsense veteran like Tucker is an asset to everyone on Toronto's roster. Whether its a challenge to play better defence, or another player on the floor helping the defence stay together, Tucker's voice has been heard since arriving in Toronto at the trade deadline. For him, communication on defence is crucial. Without it, defence becomes an individual task.
"When you don't get communication, everybody is worried about their man," Tucker said. "Defence isn't about your man, it's about helping the situation out. It's about being there, helping your teammate out, your other teammate helping you out. Everybody being on a string and that communication is what brings it all together."
Doing it on defence
Although Raptors head coach Dwane Casey would prefer his team not wait until the fourth quarter to kick things into high gear, the defensive effort his team showed to pull out a come-from-behind victory against the Pistons was impressive. Particularly so in the second game of a back-to-back. On a night when the offence was struggling, to earn a victory on the other end of the floor was a solid reminder of what's most important each night.
"All of that was defence," Norman Powell said of the win. "We know that defence will carry over into office and once we started getting stops, we were locked in. That makes it easier on the other end of the floor."
One night after apologizing to fans for the effort shown from his team in the loss to the Thunder, Casey pointed out the difference in the win in Detroit.
"There was a collective will to win," he said. [Thursday night] we lost our spirit when [Oklahoma City] hit us and tonight we didn't. Detroit tried to punch us and we withstood it."
It's easy to say the right things in a locker room after a particularly dispiriting loss. Going out and doing them is what counts and with one game down, Toronto looks to make good on those words for 13 more.