Frank Vogel is the coach of Hickory High: Pacers vs. Raptors preview

By Jon R. LaFollette (@JonFilet) and Dave Searle (@DaveSearle)

Jon: Before Dave regales us with the greatest on court moment for any Raptors player, let me present the greatest on court moment for any Raptors mascot.

Gaze at the endless cycle of inflatable fail.

Brief back story: In a lame effort to jazz up a perpetually tepid experience for Raptors fans, someone decided it would be wise to strap roller blades to the team’s inflatable mascot. Not realizing a quick duct tape job around the ankles would allow air to seep through and throw off the dinosaur’s balance, our predatory friend was doomed the moment he dashed on to the hardwood.

The above .GIF is a gift that keeps on giving. Along with Dramatic Gopher, it’s as close to perfection as humanity will get – yes, I’m including double bacon cheeseburgers, Grumpy Cat and Vengeance Dad.

That brief moment in suck is the Raptors franchise personified: earnest intentions morphing into a bag of floppy eyes and a droopy tail.

While the team from north of the border struggles to attract marquee free agents and vie for relevancy stateside, the lore of the Raptor mascot lives on – it was named best .GIF ever in a recent SB Nation poll. Though deflated, he was thrilled nonetheless.

A devastatingly cruel twist of fate, however, was wrought on the mascot during the preseason. While performing at an elementary school, the Raptor tore his Achilles during a routine back flip.

The video below isn’t the greatest angle, but it needs to be seen. Quick, find your inner sanctuary and cling to it. Stand and remove your hats as we observe a moment of silence in honor of our fallen friend.

Thank you.

I’m still waiting for the campaign drive to raise funds for his rehabilitation. I’m sure Sarah McLachlan will be happy to oblige.

With a busted mascot and D.J. Augstin on their roster, what is Toronto to do?

What any struggling and uncool franchise from Canada would. CALL DRAKE!

DRAKESUP

In an effort to re-brand the team before their 20th anniversary season in 2014, Toronto has partnered with the hometown hip-hop star. Drake will consult with team officials on a new marketing strategy to make the  Raptors more appealing. The only thing off the table is the team name – which was voted on by fans in 1995 based on the popularity of Jurassic Park.

I like the pairing. Drake’s music is slow footed, dull and overvalued because it’s falsely perceived as cool. Ditto for the Toronto minus the cool part.

It’s hard to not be slightly nostalgic for the Raptors. When I became a basketball fan in my younger and more vulnerable years, I liked the team solely because they had a dinosaur with spike-fitting shoes as their logo. 8-year-old Jon will always wish Toronto well.

Though the association with Drake is sexy, I have greater faith in new General Manager Masai Ujiri – who inked a 5-year $15 million contract last summer. Ujiri built a damn good Nuggets team during his tenure in the Mile High City, and is considered by many as one of the smartest minds in the NBA. If anyone can find a way to unload Rudy Gay’s egregious contract, it’s him. Hell, he got a first round pick and more for Italian big man Andrea Bargnani. How’s that working out for you, New York?

Swimmingly, it seems.

Dave: Last year, Rudy Gay was a godsend… for Pacers fans. In four games against the Pacers, Gay shot 38.7 percent. Ouch.

Wait, hold on. That was his true shooting percentage (which tends to be higher because it factors in free throws and beefs up three-point makes). His normal field goal percentage was 32.5. Yuck. For the record, Gay was also zero percent from 3-point range. Turns out, Rudy can fail after all.

Paul George eats Gay for lunch defensively. George’s length, speed, and one-on-one defensive dominance is a perfect counter to… whatever Rudy Gay is supposed to be good at.

Everything I just said didn’t matter, however, for one fateful play on February 8, 2013:

Gay shot 9-of-25 that night. Paul George must have been frustrated to play so well defensively for the duration of the game, only to have a tightly-contested game winner fall. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Remember those horror story shooting stats Gay posted versus the Pacers last year? Yeah, it pretty much mirrors his shooting splits from the first five games this season:

37 FG% / 29 3P% / 36 eFG% / 86 ORtg

The last stat is Gay’s offensive rating. Basically, if a team full of 2013-14 Rudy Gays had 100 possessions, they would score 86 points. That’s gross. For context, the semi-struggling Pacers offense has a ORtg of 101.4. Paul George’s ORtg is 116.

I know Halloween is over, but if you still want to get chilled to the bone…

Look out! Right in front of you, it’s a RUDY GAY SHOT CHART!!!

Image

22 shots from mid-range despite being a terrible shooter? FRIGHTFUL. 4-of-14 from downtown? BLOOD CURDLING. 40 percent at the rim? NIGHT OF THE LIVING BRICKS!

That blood-red color means “god awful”. There’s a whole lot of god awful to be had there.

The Pacers are holding opponents to a dismal 84 points per game. As one of the worst high-usage offensive players in the NBA, Gay doesn’t seem like a serious threat to hurt the Pacers.

The Dunk Contest GOAT

Let’s clean the palette by revisiting the greatest dunk contest performance of all time, which also doubles as the greatest moment in Raptors history:

Second-Half Team

By now, it’s clear the Pacers are a much better offensive team in the second half. Why is that? MIND BLOWING HALFTIME SPEECHES:

Vogel must be the front runner for the GHMSOY (Gene Hackman Motivational Speaker Of the Year). What is he doing in his halftime speeches that has these Pacers playing like Boomer’s life is in the balance? Does he stand up on a chair? Do violins start to swell as his voice raises and the veins on his forehead begin to pop? Does he talk about all of the inches everywhere? Does he just shout, THIS IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY?

Whatever he is doing, it’s working. The Pacers are a completely different team in the second half. Here are a few numbers which crystallize the difference.

In the first half of these first five games, the Pacers are averaging 39 points and allowing 43. In the second half, the Pacers are averaging 50+ points and outscore their competition by a whopping 15-point margin.

Obviously we are joking about the Hollywood-quality, heart-tugging halftime speeches of  Frank Vogel. With point swings this drastic, however, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out Vogel stands everyone up and stares each and every member of this team in the eyes, takes a dramatic pause, and says “I love you guys.”

Bold Predictions

Tyler Hansbrough swells up like he is going to fight someone after a tough rebound, locks eyes with David West and promptly stares at his shoes while whispering a Hail Mary. D.J. Augustin does nothing and everyone forgets he is there. Roy Hibbert finally breaks out offensively and scores over 18 points.

Final Score

The Raptors just simply don’t have the personnel to score against these red-hot Pacers. Pacers 91, Raptors 79

Jon: My bold prediction is so bold it’s undisputed fact.

1: Tyler Hansbrough doesn’t like playing in Toronto. See how thrilled he is in the video below.

2: Chris Bosh, despite the lazy memes about him looking like a dinosaur or an ostrich, was pretty cool before taking his talents to South Beach. Dig the following All-Star commercial.

Final Score: Pacers 95, Raptors 83.

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