Game #19 Preview: New, Young Raptors — Same Old Story

Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers
Monday, December 6, 2010
7:00 pm EST
Conseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana

Fortunately, does not apply to the Toronto Raptors.

It’s tough to know what you’re going to see when you play the Toronto Raptors. They are only 8-12 on the year but have beaten Eastern Conference contenders Orlando and Boston as well as Oklahoma City. They are by no means good, but they can apparently sneak up on people and steal some wins.

A lot of this inconsistency is probably due to their youth.

The Raptors start four players 25 or younger, and the 29-year-old Jose Calderon and the 28-year-old Leandro Barbosa are the rotation’s elder statesmen. Two of these youngsters in particular are probably feeling really good today.

“Power” forward Amir Johnson probably had the best game of his six-year NBA career yesterday, scoring 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting to go along with 16 boards (8 offensive), 3 steals and 2 blocks. The 23-year-old has a loooong way to go to live up to the five-year, $34 million contract he signed to remain a Raptor last summer, but this a good start. Hopefully for Indiana it doesn’t continue.

Another guy many Indiana fans hope will never become a high-quality player in this league is combo-guard Jerryd Bayless. Well, I don’t think anyone specifically wants him to have a bad career — they just don’t want a controversial personnel decision to come back to bite the team. Bayless was originally drafted by the Pacers in 2008 but traded just minutes later (along with Ike Diogu) for Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts. Thus far, it’s hard to argue that Bayless has been so good that it could counteract the contributions that Jack, Rush and McRoberts have made. Then again, Bayless never really got a chance to prove himself in Portland and has definitely shown some flashes of scoring brilliance in his young career. (And at 22-years-old, he is very young compared to the 25-year-old Rush.)

But Bayless has played more than 20 minutes in each of his last three games in Toronto (which coincidentally just traded Jarrett Jack for him right before Thanksgiving), shooting 16-for-31 (51.6%) while averaging 15.3 points, 4.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 free-throw attempts and only 1.3 turnovers per game during this stretch.

Jerryd Bayless has faced the Pacers in the past, but this will be the first time that Pacers fans can go into the game expecting to get an extended look at the kid their GM passed on.

Let’s hope he, and the whole Raptors team really, has an off night.

(This doesn’t fit into the Young Raps on the Prowl narrative, but it’s also important to note that Roy Hibbert really has nobody to guard in this game. Andrea Bargnani is their “center” and all he does is shoot. And Amir is not a good match-up for Roy due to his athleticism and quickness. Will be an issue — but shouldn’t be a problem.)

Pacers vs Raptors By the Numbers

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