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The Raptors take on the Pacers, look for 10th straight win: Preview, start time, and more

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Both the Raptors and Pacers are coming into Thursday feeling good, and the March Madness air could make tonight’s contest an interesting one.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors are finishing off a three-game road trip Thursday night as they head to Indiana to play the Pacers. Toronto is riding a high with a nine-game win streak and seven straight on the road — growing their Eastern Conference lead over the Celtics to 4.5 games.

Now, during the win streak the Raptors dethroned the number one seed in the west, the Houston Rockets, but the other eight teams have been relatively easy competition. However, the Pacers won’t be, as they’ve become one of the hottest teams in the East, recently reaching 40 wins and hopping Cleveland for the three-seed.

In the month of March, the Pacers are 6-1 and for the season they have the second most wins against the conference with 30 — only trailing the Raptors’ 33. During that stretch, the Pacers have averaged 98.4 points per game, with their lowest scoring game coming against Utah when they were held to 84 in a loss. In all their recent March wins, the Pacers have held their opponent to under 100 points.

In their last match-up back in December, the Raptors edged the Pacers 120-115, and in November, Indiana won at home 107-104. So, the Pacers haven’t been a friendly team to the Raptors all season, and that’s in part to Victor Oladipo, who’s averaging 28.5 points against the Raptors. For his career, he scores 19.5 against the Raptors which is the fourth highest for him against any opponent.

It would be nice to see the Raptors come home with a 10-game win streak, but the Pacers aren’t going to make it easy, especially if both OG Anunoby and Norman Powell (left ankle sprain from the Nets game) are out.

Here are your details for tonight’s game:

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One 7 p.m.

Lineups:

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Malcolm Miller, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Indiana: Cory Joseph, Victor Oladipo, Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner

Injuries:

Toronto – OG Anunoby (ankle – doubtful), Norman Powell (sprained ankle – doubtful)

Indiana – Domantas Sabonis (ankle – out), Trevor Booker (sprained ankle – questionable)

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Stop the Rest of Them

As mentioned above, Oladipo scores against the Raptors. It’ll be tough to defend him, especially without two of the Raptors best perimeter defenders in Aunuoby and Powell. For the season, Oladipo is averaging 23.6 points and doing it on 47.2 percent shooting.

In March, he has slowed down a bit, only scoring 19.4 per game on 40.9 percent — so while his teammates have been rolling, Oladipo hasn’t. However, if history tells us anything, he’ll score on Thursday night.

Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young are two players that can rack up points quickly, and former Raptor Cory Joseph, although not much of a scorer, has yet to have that ‘you shouldn’t have let me go’ game yet. In two games against the Raptors, Joseph has a combined seven points, so eventually he’ll find a rhythm, right?

Get On Them Early

The Raptors got off to a slow start versus the Nets on Tuesday, and they need to avoid that against a much better Pacers team. With the Pacers rolling as the third seed in the East, they will have something to prove against the Raptors.

D’Angelo Russell’s insane first quarter from the other night (24 points) probably won’t happen again, but if the Raptors don’t come out strong defensively, an entire Pacers lineup could light them up.

The Pacers want to prove their strong March isn’t some fluke, and in no way has it been as they’ve beat Milwaukee (twice), Washington, Atlanta, Boston, and Philadelphia, and it would only be more impressive if they add Toronto to that list and hand the Raptors a second L in one season — not many East teams have done that this season.

Get The Right Miles Going

I know I keep bringing this up, but if Aunuoby and Powell are out, then the Raptors will need another swingman to step up. C.J. Miles struggled against the Nets until the fourth quarter, but he’ll be getting increased minutes against the Pacers.

With teams focusing in on Lowry and DeRozan, it’ll give Miles the opportunity to knock down 3s — and a lot of them. Don’t forget, in the Raptors earlier visit to Indiana, Miles didn’t play because his wife was giving birth to their daughter. So, this will also be Miles’ return to Indiana since joining the Raptors.

As for the other Myles: it goes without saying the Raptors should do what they have to with their big and mobile frontline to slow him down.