Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Fresh off a triple overtime loss to the Utah Jazz last night, the Toronto Raptors are in Indiana tonight to take on the Pacers. The HQ previews the action...
Ok. So you lose a heartbreaker to a team that's arguably more talented than you, in triple overtime no less.
What do you do next?
You hop on a plane to Indiana of course!
The Raps are in Indiana to take on a Pacers team that like the Raps, hasn't met pre-season expectations. The Pacers have three wins and four losses, so aren't in the same boat as Toronto (one win and yep, now six losses), but haven't exactly looked like the East's biggest threat to the Miami Heat, a title many laid on them as soon as last year's playoffs concluded.
Their issues are many at present, from the ailing Danny Granger, to the lack of a true point guard threat now that Darren Collison is in Dallas. Some of the club has underperformed (Roy Hibbert) while others may simply not be able to do enough to cover Granger's absence.
Paul George is obviously the player we're alluding to in that last sentence as while many have expected him to break through this season in a big way, he's yet to do that, even with Danny Granger on the sidelines.
That doesn't mean though that this is an easy win.
The Raptors as we know have a litany of issues on their own, not the least of these being injuries as well. Kyle Lowry, Alan Anderson and Landry Fields will be sitting this one out yet again, so we may get another night of watching Linas Kleiza and Dominic McGuire playing 30 plus minutes each.
And on that note, our three keys...
1) Fight through fatigue. There's no question there are going to be some tired bodies out there tonight for the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan played 60 minutes and most of the other key players in last night's contest each logged over 35.
So not only are the starters going to have to find a way to get past that fatigue and any slow start, but the reserves need to be ready to go. Guys like John Lucas and Ed Davis had solid games last night overall and they're going to be counted on again this evening. The Pacers have been off since Saturday night so they're going to be rested and ready to roll.
2) Earth to Andrea. You know who should be rested? Andrea Bargnani! Sure, he clocked in at 49 minutes last night but didn't anyone notice him playing after about the 30 minute mark? He was essentially invisible in overtime and if this team, especially minus Lowry, is going to steal a few of these games, he needs to take over. There was no reason last night that he couldn't have attacked more often late in the game. When he did attack he got to the rim or often caught his man up in the air for foul opportunities. Unfortunately he just didn't demand repeat opportunities, nor did he look to create mismatches, something we saw from the Jazz big men.
3) David West. No need to harp on this, but someone needs to keep David West in check tonight. He was the main reason the Pacers came back to beat the Dinos in Toronto's home opener and considering the struggles of other Pacers like George, Gerald Green and Hibbert, he'll likely be counted on tonight.
West is actually having a great campaign so far averaging nearly 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, marks that are a tad higher than his career totals. Toronto needs to force West out of his sweet spots even if that means throwing some double teams at him. The Pacers are one of the two worst shooting teams in the league right now looking at true shooting percentage, and are only hitting 30 per cent of their long-range attempts, so I'm ok with giving them a few looks if it means shutting West down.
Note, I said a few...