Raptors win season home opener

via NBA

via NBA

The Toronto Raptors started of in a slower pace before rallying in the second half for a season-opening win over the Indiana Pacers.

DeRozan had 25 points as Toronto rallied from a 16-point deficit to capture a 106-99 home victory over Indiana on Wednesday night. The Raptors improved to 13-8 in home openers and 12-9 in season openers while registering a fifth straight win over the Pacers after sweeping last year’s season series 4-0.

The Raptors cut the Pacers' lead to eight at the half and four after three quarters and briefly seemed poised to pull away after Ross knocked down a three while being fouled and converted the four-point play to give Toronto a 76-68 lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Raptors were never quite able to put away the Pacers. As the game tightened Raptors head coach Dwane Casey proved that he’s willing to adapt, as he went with Jonas Valanciunas down the stretch and two point guards, with Joseph in the backcourt with Kyle Lowry and Carroll as the power forward.

The only offence the Raptors could rely on in that first half was Jonas Valanciunas who was getting plenty of touches and converting them.

The Valanciunas we saw a year ago was a little hesitant to let fly with his shot, but that Valanciunas is no longer here. This year’s version is either going straight at the basket or aggressively going up with his shot as soon as he gets the ball.

“Just working on shooting and releasing fast,” Valanciunas said. “No more pump fake. Just being decisive.”

Through a half his 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting were the lone bright spot. He would wind up with 21 points and 15 rebounds in a stellar start to the season for the fourth-year centre.

“That’s what we were waiting for,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “Everybody wants to see him play at the end, that’s what he’s got to do.”

“That’s the kind of force we have to play with in the first half, at the start of the game,” Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said. “I was pleased with our defence, we got stops when we needed to but again we’ve got to play with force and physicality to start the game.”

Toronto took control in the third, outscoring Indiana 35-23 to turn a 45-37 half-time deficit into a 72-68 advantage heading into the third.

“We picked it up offensively,” DeRozan said. “We were getting stops, we were playing good defence throughout the game.

“We just hit that spell where we couldn't execute or get a bucket when we needed to.”

Paul George didn't shy away from voicing his frustrations with officials.

"We felt like it was a lot of bad calls," George said "Close games like that, let us play. You got a guy like Lowry who's down on one end doing what he wants, then on the other end he gets touched and the whistle is getting blown. So we was frustrated. We was very frustrated."

Indiana held a 16-point lead in the first half, but a 35-23 thir quarted for the Raptors turned Toronto's fourtune around in a hurry. The Pacers clawed back to tie the game at 95 in the fourth, with a late bucket from George drawing Indian within one point at 98-97. 

All of the blame cant be placed on the officiating, which George is aware of. On a night when the Pacers hit just 37.2 percent on their attempts from the field, the two-time All-Star knows the complexion of the game changes if a few more shots fall their way. 

"The whole game was a swing off of us not making shots," George said. "Every time we missed, they got the ball and they were going. We make those shots, this game is a lot slower for them, they're able to set up. Its how we started the game out."

The Raptors will play their first road game of the season in Boston where they will take on former Raptor Amir Johnson and the Celtics on Friday night at 7:30 PM. ET.