Tomorrow night an important pre-playoff game will be played in the East, the Indiana Pacers will visit the Toronto Raptors. It could be a game with a lot of repercussions.
The Pacers haven’t won in Toronto at the ACC in almost three years, March 1, 2013 being the last time, and they have lost six of their last seven against the Raptors to boot, so it won’t be an easy house to play in. Toronto has been a team the Pacers have played tough all season, going 1-2 against against the Raptors.
The Toronto Raptors might be the Pacers first round match-up and that doesn’t bode well when you look at the numbers. The key matchups will be DeMar DeRozan vs. Paul George.
Against the Raptors, Ian Mahinmi has been averaging six points and five rebounds per game, along with five personal fouls per game. Those stats only come from two games, but what they show is how difficult it will be to play the Rap’s big men. The Raptors have some of the better defensive big players in Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo in the NBA.
The Raps have been pretty successful without DeMarre Carroll this season. But this Friday night could be a game where Carroll’s defensive prowess will be missed. DeRozan is definitely an effective defender, but he’ll be exerting a lot of energy and attention on George. George is the league’s 10th-leading scorer with 23.4 points per game.
Carroll would be a better match up to free up DeRozan. Fans seem to be waiting for the regular season to end and just get to the post season while Carroll continues his recovery from knee surgery. And a Carroll-George match up to free DeRozan defensively is something everyone is hoping for in Canada when the playoffs begin, if they meet the Pacers in round one.
The Pacers recetly have won three in a row going from dire to on fire in a hurry, and they are coming in off a 14-point win over the Cleveland Cavaliers who were without LeBron James on Wednesday. Indiana scored a season-high 70 points in the first half.
They have a half-game lead on the Detroit Pistons for the seventh-seed in the East, and have a game in hand (four remaining, to Detroit’s three) on their path to clinch a berth in the postseason.
They are in need of getting as many wins as possible, so coming to Toronto puts the Pacers in a jam. Kyle Lowry and DeRozan both scored 28 points in the teams’ last meeting, which was a 101-94 overtime win on March 17 of this year. Biyombo made a franchise-record 25 rebounds in that victory and scored a career-high 16 points. So look to him to have another big game.
By game time Friday, the Raps will have a better sense of where they stand in terms of postseason seeding, but the Pacers won’t, they’ll simply need toget as many wins as possible in the season’s final four games to secure a spot.
That will force the Pacers to play their best basketball by the time the regular season ends if they want to continue on wards.
Toronto has shuffled its starting lineup recently, with its current starting lineup, the Raps are 7-3 in the last 10, as they continue to nip at the heels of the Cavs, who will probably win the East’s top spot.
With center Jonas Valanciunas at center and yeoman Luis Scola at power forward, the Raptors’ starting lineup can score in a variety of ways, and crashing the glass with scary intensity.
But Pacers head coach Frank Vogel seems to be comfortable with his newest starting five that features Lavoy Allen at power forward, and shifting around Solomon Hill, whose recent play gives Vogel no choice but to start the third-year player whose true position on the floor remains fluid and changeable.
“We’ll think about it,” Vogel said. “I’ve actually thought about it a lot. We’ll see. We’ll kind of go game-by-game.
“Everything’s an option at this point.”
The Pacers can weigh their options but with a much clearer vision of their play and lineup, expect the Raps not to give up points easily to a possible first round contender.
Our Pick: Raptors over Pacers, 99-85