Yes, technically the Raptors still have to play the Magic on Sunday, the Pistons on Monday, and the playoff-bound Heat on Wednesday. For all intents and purposes though, this is the last game that could be called “big.” It’s Toronto versus the Pacers, in a battle of two Eastern Conference teams who still have something to prove. In the Raptors case, that their recent swoon was just an aberration; and for the Pacers, that they belong at all.
If the Raptors win tonight, they will clinch the number one seed in the conference, and set a new franchise-record in home wins and overall wins — the big one — with 57. (There’s still a path to 60, but that recent swoon didn’t help.) The Pacers don’t have quite as much to play for — it feels unlikely (impossible?) they’ll catch Philly or the Cavaliers in their quest for fourth — but that doesn’t mean they too won’t come to play.
Indiana’s whole season has been something of a modest miracle. They traded Paul George and were essentially written off as a hopeless rebuild project. And yet, with the renewed play of Victor Oladipo (a former no. 2 overall pick!) and the presence of young guns like Myles Turner — to say nothing of cool head Cory Joseph — the Pacers are in the thick of it.
Of course, the Pacers also feel like the weakest of the East’s playoff teams. They’re the squad I’d most want the Raps to play. And while it now looks like they never will again this season, this one still has a bit of weight to it — because, yes, both teams have something to prove.
Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Indiana – Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
Toronto – None
Indiana – None