The NBA scheduling team has not been kind to the Raptors so far this year. West-coast swings, back to backs (word to Drake), road trips have all made up the bulk of the schedule thus far, so it's only fitting that the first lengthy home-stand ends with a road back to back in Indiana. It would've been nice for the depleted Raptors to get some rest for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry last night against the Sixers, but they both ended up playing well in excess of 70 minutes cumulatively.
The Pacers have been one of the surprises of the season so far. Considering the Raptors faced and beat them in the home opener, you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd be on the outside looking in come playoff time. But on the back of a monster Paul George season, Indiana finds itself firmly in the playoff mix in the East. Defensively, they've cooled off a little bit, giving up at least 118 points in 4 of their last 5 games, and losing all 4 of those games. Even still, the Pacers boast a top-10 team in offensive AND defensive efficiency, so the Raptors will be in tough against a rested, well-coached Indiana squad.
Things to Watch For:
1) Paul George and CJ Miles
While Paul George is the name that most people are familiar with this season, it's CJ Miles' effectiveness that has enabled them to switch seamlessly between the Small Forward and Power Forward spots all through the year. Miles is their second leading scorer, giving them 16 points per game, shooting 41% from 3 and boasting a beautiful TS% of almost 60%. George has been better than anyone expected after his devastating injury. He's averaging 27-8-4 with good percentages across the board and will be a handful all game.
The Pacers play fast. They play small and they run. Their starting lineup uses a Miles/George combo at the 3/4 and Monta Ellis at the 2. In terms of possessions per game, they're 7th highest in the league, while the Raptors are 4th lowest. This game is matchup of polar opposite styles. With guys like Scola and Bebe making up part of the rotation, the Raptors will have to be mindful of using their size advantages to impose their will, instead of getting trampled in a sprint.
3) Bench Unit
Given the injuries the Raptors are confronted with, their bench play is more of a concern than ever before. With Terrence Ross putting up another stinker last night, Patrick Patterson still inconsistent from game-to-game, Cory Joseph is carrying most of the load for the bench unit. Bebe Nogueira's emergence has been a saving grace so far, but with a short bench on a back to back, it'd be nice if today was a strong effort from the back up unit.