Where to Watch: 7 PM EST; TSN National
The Raptors' malaise is very very real. Now 66 games into a season full of dramatic ups and downs, the Raps need to rebound from their latest disappointment after getting beat down by the Blazers at home last night. Quite simply, Toronto looked significantly worse at basketball than Portland, highlighting the gulf between this team and the true contenders of the NBA.
Surprisingly, the task gets only fractionally easier in tonight's matchup against the now-formidable Indiana Pacers. Out of nowhere, the Pacers sit at 30-35 with a real shot to crack the .500 mark to close out the season. With Paul George returning in a few weeks, they'll be a difficult out in the playoffs for any team. Before losing to the Celtics the last time out, the Pacers had won 10 of their last 11 games to shoot themselves up the Eastern Conference ledger.
Anchored by Roy Hibbert, the Pacers remain a stout defensive team, just outside the top-5 in defensive rating. In the aforementioned 12 game stretch, the only game in which they allowed over 100 points was an overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pacers have been a completely different team since George Hill returned to full health and was reinserted into the starting lineup at the beginning of February. Knowing how much the Raptors struggle to contain opponents at the point of attack on the perimeter, his matchup with Kyle Lowry becomes a focal point of this game.
Jonas Valanciunas remains a polarizing figure to many Raptors fans. Sure he's ultra efficient, but the Raptors on the whole have been much better with him off the court. He'll have to negate the Hibbert effect to a reasonable degree for the Raptors to come out on top tonight. Here are some startling numbers:
So let's hope the Raptors can turn things around as we head into the stretch run. Your thoughts?