Something happened Friday night in Indiana. The Toronto Raptors won on the road against the Indiana Pacers. Prior to losing, the Pacers had only lost three times at home the entire season. Amir Johnson hit a wild game tying put back to send the game to overtime. Rudy Gay did was he brought over to do and sank the game winning bucket over Paul George. All of those did happen but two more important events occurred.
The entire season has been full of fourth quarter collapses. The team hasn’t been able to close out a one point lead, a ten point lead or even a twenty point lead. The team has been outplayed, outclassed and out coached in every game this season and that’s including their wins. Friday night, finally, coach Dwane Casey lived up to his billing and actually made a difference. He called the right plays as he used Gay in isolation sequences. He used his bench and substitutions probably. His moves actually caused match-up problems for the Pacers. He used his timeouts effectively extending the game and enabling the team to send the game into overtime. He pushed his players to extend their defense rushing the Pacers into bad shots.
Casey earned his money. He was given a chance to use his coaching ability to help his team to win. He did that and more. As the game progressed you could see the players pay more attention to him during every timeout. They ran the plays he called and those plays worked. Casey was the coach and the team benefited.
The Raptors surprised a lot of fans last night. They were tough. The Pacers play a drag it out drop it down type of game. The Raptors stayed step for step with the in your face Pacers. Tyler Hansbrough, the cheap shot artist and the hack threw Jonus Valancuinus to the ground. Valancuinus took a break to calm down and came back in the game during crunch time easily playing his best of the season. DeMar DeRozan was dogged the whole night by Lance Stephenson but he didn’t back down and gave as good as he got. Kyle Lowry and George Hill were going at each other the whole night. Even Andrea Bargnani, who seems to have accepted his bench role, trash talked both Roy Hibbert and David West. Bargnani was in to the game both mentally and physically and took the lead in every timeout keeping his teammates up and into every aspect of the game. There were a lot of pumping fists and loud outbursts. It all culminated with the strut Gay gave the entire Indiana crowd after hitting the game winning shot. The team showed a toughness I didn’t they had.
A win is a win especially with the way the Raptors season has been going but the game in Indiana was different. Casey proved to his fans, to the franchise and hopefully to himself that he can coach. He needs to coach like he did every single night. The players proved to everyone that when the going gets tough they can give it out as well. The team needs to be fully engaged every night to have a chance to win. They aren’t good enough to coast. The team needs to be mad every night to win. If only we had a hack on the other team every night to get blood boiling and the temperature rising for the Raptors.
Every team has a playbook on how to play the game that night and how to win. The Raptors playbook should be filled with everything that happened Friday night. That is the only way the wins can come. That is the only way the team might have a chance to make the playoffs. Good coaching, making the right moves and playing with a chip on your shoulder must be the blueprint for every single game.
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