Was this victory # 1 in what is destined to be an 82 win season? Ok, probably not but letís just all bow our heads and thank God for giving us this miracle of a game.
Iím going to probably harp on a lot of things in this post so before I go into that I want to make absolutely certain that I address this right up front.
We ainít (yes ainít is perfectly acceptable here in the Hoosier state) sneaking up on nobody this year. The fight we got tonight from the Raptors certainly was heightened by the fact that they did not want to lose their home opener but Iím telling you guys that we are going to be getting this effort from most teams this season as we are now known throughout the NBA. The press may not know us, the general NBA fan may not know us but I can assure you ever G.M., coach & player in the NBA knows us and knows we canít be taken lightly.
For this reason alone let us all take a moment to give a standing ovation to former President of basketball operations Larry Bird.
Ok now that this is out of the way I will now start with the evaluation and itís not always going to be pretty.
Oh before I do that though I want to say something else, I just watched Portland and this is the first time Iíve ever seen this Damian Lillard play and all I can say is ďwowĒ this guy is good.
Ok tonight was a prime example why I was pretty unhappy with George Hill for not playing any in the pre-season. Now before you all want to lynch me for not giving him a break for being injured let me say this, yes it did look like he was in severe discomfort playing & I take back any of my previous suspicions. Like I said too many years of watching Jamaal ďsinus infection for lifeĒ Tinsley.
Anyway the serious problem from that stems from him missing the pre-season was the fact that D.J. Augustin pretty much played with the starters and tonight it looked like not only was this his first regular season game with the bench, it looked like it was the first time they played together period. I know that is not the case but man that second unit stagnated again just as bad as it did last season.
Augustin did as well as he could but there was just no flow at all to the benchís game.
Of course with Dannyís injury the bench was screwed up as well. Green was with the starters & they had to depend a lot on Sam Young who actually hit his two shots from the field but didnít do much in the way of creating offense. Plus it really was their first game together.
I wonder though if we wonít see Hill in street clothes for the Bobcats game? He really was wincing in pain at the end of the game.
To open the season let us provide grades to our players, hey might as well start the season average grade rolling right out of the gate.
Gerald Green: C-
Nervousness thy name is Green. Iím not sure Gerald has ever played a game that actually mattered in the NBA in a role where he was actually counted on. If this game was in December or after this might have merited an F or at the very least a strong D but seeing as how it was his first game & it looked like he might pass out from being in the spotlight Iíll give him a break and go with the C-. But anytime you have as many turnovers as points you know you have a problem. He did some good things out there defensively but Iím not sure he caused Landry Fields to miss all 6 of his shots or Landry Fields caused himself to miss all 6 shots. Heís got some big shoes to fill and it is only one night but I think those who thought we would all go ďDanny whoĒ when Gerald Green took off might want to lower their expectations down to being happy that he contributes to winning and not look for him to actually replace Danny Granger.
David West: B+
Oh I know that grade is not going to make anyone happy but Iím telling you if I just averaged out his play over the entire game I would have only given him a C. I figure if you single handily bring a team back from a 10 point deficit you get the benefit of the doubt. Why would it only have been a C you ask? Simple, up until he went into God mode there at the end I would have given him an F. I was so disgusted with him in the first half I actually wanted Tyler Hansbrough on the court, TYLER HANSBROUGH. That sayís it all. But I canít lie, dude went Jordan on the Raptors and did something that very few players weíve ever had be able to do and that was throw us on his back and drug us to victory. But 2 rebounds? Two? Not to mention the fact that Bargnani made him look like he was wearing cement shoes for most of the night. I deeply appreciate the fact that on offense this guy is special, but he really more than anybody is hurt by Danny not being on the floor for defense. Yes I said Danny Granger plays good interior defense & David West can not, deal with it.
Roy Hibbert: B+
The way he started the game I thought we were in store for one of those special nights that only true big men can give you. Little did I know that when Roy went into the locker room he would leave his offensive game in there with him. Now to Royís credit for whatever reason Frank did leave him out for a long stretch in the 3rd and by the time he got back in they just didnít run plays for him & then West went wild so he wasnít involved there but it was just kind of odd the way his game just kind of went away & I donít feel like it was really anything Toronto did. The real irony of this is pretty simple Iím looking at a 14 point 9 rebound 5 block game from Roy and just think he had a decent game. 4 years ago this would have been a career game for him & a much better career game than some people thought he would ever have. Oh before I forget letís all be sure to once again take a min. and laugh at this fact. Toronto gave us Roy Hibbert (along with other pieces) for Jermaine OíNealís old broken down @ss. Hahahahahahahahaahhahahahaahahhahahahahahahahaha
Paul George: B+
Anytime you get 15 rebounds out of your shooting guard you need to rejoice. In fact this would have been two months of rebounds for Reggie Miller and the fact is Paul can get these types of numbers fairly often (not as high as 15 but 10 is not out of the question). I like the fact that he didnít force the issue to much tonight and he had a couple of moves early in the first quarter where he cut baseline and another where he posted up Lowry that were just excellent basketball plays. They werenít fancy or going to be on anybodyís top 10 but that is how you win games. Yes he turned the ball over to often and had a couple of really sloppy passes but overall I am glad he didnít try and force himself into trying to be a hero and just played his game. I still think he and Danny compliment each other on the defensive end very well, far better then he does with Green.
George Hill: B+
You know what it takes to sale real estate? The same thing it takes to take the last second shot in a game.
Many of you will get the Glengarry Glenn Ross reference; some of you wonít so go look it up.
He just works with the first unit, I canít put my finger on it either because heís really not that great of a passer although I thought it looked like he had been working on his passing especially his entry passes to the post. Heís a decent shooter and a pretty good defender but there is just something chemistry wise about him when he is on the floor with the other 4 starters that just works. I really could see the pain on his face tonight so I am really going to give him a break on the Kyle Lowry front; I think he was guarding him on a bad hip. Give him two good hips & I donít think Lowry gives him any trouble. Very proud of him for the way he played and even more proud of him for the way he finished the game. Frank said after the game he asked George if he needed to come out and he told him he wanted to finish the game.
Tyler Hansbrough: B
Yea Iím as shocked by that grade as you are. But I canít deny the fact that Tyler actually defended tonight, in fact he stopped a fast break by getting back and making the guard commit to a pass which led the ball going out of bounds. He didnít take any stupid shots and he hit all of his free throws. Think about that for a min. if Tyler hadnít hit his free throws we could have lost that game. It still kills me that teams surround him with 2, 3 & sometimes even 4 players and they foul him instead of just blocking his shot, but hey if they are dumb enough to do it then by all means letís take advantage of it. Hey he is what he is, so Iím sure Iíll have plenty of nights this year where I scorch him with pithy commentary but for me for tonight anyway I thought he played within himself.
Sam Young: C+
In a world of 31 flavors Sam Young is the Neapolitan (chocolate, vanilla & strawberry) with no toppings. Nothing fancy here just gets the job done with efficiency. Now having said that I want to float this idea out there. If Danny is down for extended time I wonder if maybe moving Sam to the starting 3 spot wouldnít make some sense so that way Geraldís offense can have more of an impact and not force him into being a scorer who get the attention of the better defenders? The front 5 doesnít need the offensive kick like the second five does & Sam canít turn up big numbers like I think Gerald could. Just a thought. Look I like this guy, my kind of player. Hard nosed & doesnít do things that he knows he canít do. But he is not a game changer & no I donít think he is a starter either but I think he might just fit better with our starters & Gerald might be better being with Augustin.
Lance Stephenson: C
I know this may not sound like much but he did nothing stupid and actually stepped into a three point shot and drilled it. He did help out on the glass which is a positive, in fact our shooting guard position netted us 19 rebounds tonight & Iíd say that is a real positive for our team. He didnít rush tonight but he also didnít look as lethargic as he did in that Bulls game. Not sure yet what to think his role is going to be.
Ian Mahinmi: C-
Not going to lie, I was vastly disappointed. He didnít play bad mind you but the way I was pimping him the season preview this was not what I was expecting. Itís like in the pre-season I was watching a different player. He had soft hands and grabbed tough passes; tonight he will be awarded the Scott Pollard stone hands award. He was a go getter on the offensive end and was taking it hard to the rack, tonight he shot the ball once in almost 19 min. of play & he missed that shot. He did rebound well and he did block a couple of shots but I donít feel as though he was an intimidator out there on defense. Iím really hoping this was just opening night jitters.
D.J. Augustin: C-
Did nothing of consequence. It was like it was the first time he played with the bench players & in fact it really was. He of course was just simply abused by Calderon which I expected but the fact that our other bench players just could not score much did not help him make up for his shaky defense with decent passing. I have to wonder though if he wonít be back in the starting lineup for the Fridayís game as Hill is still hurting.
Like any landing from a plane you can walk away from is good, any victory you can come away with is good. The team is now 21 games above .500% since we exorcised the devil & handed the reigns over the angelic Frank, I mention this just to remind everyone how horrid of a coach you know who was and to state that we are a winning team with Frank.
Expectations are high and this was a great win but dear God please donít let Danny be injured to the point he wonít be able to play for most of the season because while I love our other players with him here we are just one step ahead of everyone not named the Heat and possibly another team out west.
Ah screw all of this sappy stuff.
Now is the time in odd thoughts when we dance.