After an ignominious loss against the New York Knicks, the Raptors are looking to rebound against a thriving Indiana Pacers team. On a four-game winning streak, the Pacers have outperformed their expectations heading into the season. As reported by Pacers writer Mark Montieth, Darren Collison praised his team’s chemistry during a team’s recent practice, gushing, "I've never seen a team [come together] this quick… the way we're jelling right now is definitely amazing."
But fret not, Raptors fans. Out of all the Raptors’ losses this season, the team has always bounced right back with a win the following game — except once, but those games were against the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. This Raptors squad is resilient, and, despite the Pacers’ sixth-best offense in the league, the team from Toronto should feel confident heading into the game.
That being said however, the Raptors’ defense has slipped out of the top 10 in the league recently, falling now to 13th. Considering that the Indiana Pacers are the most efficient three-point shooting team in the league (40.4%), and are on even more of a tear in their past three games (47.9%), the Raptors need to be especially active guarding the perimeter. With Delon Wright and his long limbs out with an injury, this may be a tall task for the Raptors. However, Norman Powell is no stranger to locking up Indiana Pacers wings, so his quickness and proclivity for putting forth effort on defense will certainly be helpful.
The Raptors are entering the easiest stretch of their schedule now, after exiting an incredibly tough period since the beginning of the season, complete with long road trips and matchups against stellar Western Conference teams. Hopefully the disheartening loss against the Knicks was an anomaly, and the Raptors can get back on track — tonight, they look to build the foundation for another win streak.
Here are tonight’s details and keys to the game:
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 8:00 p.m., EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Indiana – Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
Toronto – Delon Wright (dislocated right shoulder), C.J. Miles (baby’s birth)
Indiana – Glen Robinson III (ankle)
Keeping up the Perimeter Defense
As previously mentioned, the Indiana Pacers are shooting the league’s highest three-point percentage. Thankfully, the Pacers are only the league’s 18th best rebounding team, meaning the Raptors can focus their efforts on guarding the perimeter while still grabbing a satisfactory number of boards.
Equipped with a pair of quick guards, Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison, who aren’t afraid to gun from long range (44.7% and 37% respectively, from deep), the Raptors must look to send their younger, more athletic guards to hound them. OG Anunoby may be oversized, but his quickness and athleticism provide a catalyst for a versatile defense — using Powell and OG interchangeably will help tremendously. While Fred VanVleet certainly isn’t tall or long-limbed, his sheer tenacity and quickness will aid the Raptors’ ailing defense as well.
Make or Miss Three-Point Shooting
The Pacers are the league’s best three-point shooting team, and the Raptors are positioned near the bottom of the league (23rd). Luckily, the Pacers only take the 19th most three-pointers in the league, so, currently, they aren’t capitalizing on their strengths as much as they perhaps should be.
Regardless, the Raptors will need to hit their threes, otherwise the game looks to be a runaway for the Pacers. Basketball is a game of runs, and if they Pacers continuously hit their threes while the Raptors brick from long range, it would spell trouble for Toronto. Kyle Lowry is finally coming around, shooting 42% from three over his past four games, so he should be able to contribute positively in this area.
And the Key Matchup:
DeMar DeRozan is going to have to outperform Victor Oladipo for the Raptors to come away with the victory. Oladipo is currently in the midst of a breakout season, averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game with incredibly efficient shooting.
A battle of the team’s stars, DeRozan will have to play serviceable defense on Oladipo (particularly around the arc) when the Raptors’ younger guards are not on the floor. If DeRozan can stop the three-point barrage, while chipping in points any way he can (usually mid-range jumpers), the Raptors will likely pull through with the W.