It's finally time, and this year, Paul Pierce is nowhere to be seen.
The Raptors have been a lock for a high playoff seed in the Eastern Conference for over a month, so the anticipation has been building for a long time. The Raps are looking to show they can succeed in the postseason after two straight years of disappointments. Though Pierce isn't back for his third consecutive playoff clash with the Raptors, there are a set of new players looking to play the villain.
Today is all about setting tone. The Air Canada Centre will be packed with fans looking to will their very capable team to victory. On paper, it's hardly a contest. The Raptors won 11 more games than the Indiana Pacers, they are deeper and they have two stars instead of one. But, that one star for the Pacers is pretty special.
Paul George and his cohorts will be looking to shake the Raptors' confidence right off the bat. They will want the team to doubt themselves, like they did in both 2014 and 2015. For the Raptors, the key will be scoring early and often, particularly for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who have struggled in the playoffs before. They need to move the ball, play for each other and take their opportunities when they arise.
For the Raptors, it looks like everyone is going in relatively healthy, aside from the usual end of season wear and tear. The Pacers look to be equally as healthy, which should make this a competitive, exciting clash.
Before the game, be sure to soak yourself in knowledge by reading Dan Grant's preview.
Or, if you're more into the audio/visual side of things, have a look at John Gaudes on CTV News:
Then, tell us what's bugging you in the comments.
Now, let's get hype and forget about past sorrow.