This team just keeps finding ways to win. Down 11 with less than three minutes left on the clock on Wednesday night, Toronto surged ahead of the Pacers with some late-game heroics by Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam. The Raptors are currently sitting on a franchise-record 12 wins in a row, and will look to add to that total with a rematch against the Pacers tonight, this time in Indiana.
And once again, Kyle Lowry was utterly brilliant on Wednesday night. He drove through the paint with purpose and aggression, bombed from long range and consistently found his teammates for buckets. When Kyle comes out of the gate firing, it really sets the tone for the game. Midway through the first quarter, spectators already knew they were in for another Lowry classic.
The Pacers out-shot, out-rebounded and out-assisted the Raptors, yet ultimately came up short. The game’s result is a testament to the Raptors’ hustle and willingness to push the ball with urgency; Toronto scored a combined 87 points in transition and in the paint, compared to Indiana’s lowly 41. As well, the Raptors did an excellent job of protecting the ball and capitalizing on the Pacers’ mistakes, scoring 27 points off Indiana’s 18 turnovers.
Now, these teams face each other once again. Though Victor Oladipo has struggled since returning from injury, averaging just 9.5 points on 24.5 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from three, his lethargy won’t last forever. The Pacers are not to be trifled with, especially as the season progresses. If the Raptors want to continue their winning streak sans Marc Gasol and Norman Powell, the team must display the same level of passion they’ve shown all season long. Never underestimate the heart of a champion, babyyyyy.
Here are the details for tonight’s matchup:
Where to Watch:
SN1, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Indiana — Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Toronto — Marc Gasol (out - hamstring), Norman Powell (out - finger), Dewan Hernandez (out - ankle)
Indiana — T.J. Warren (questionable - concussion), Victor Oladipo (questionable - knee)
Many fans have lost faith in OG solely based on his inability to make a Pascal-esque leap this season. Obviously, that was an unrealistic expectation — Siakam is a special case. That said, OG simply cannot take only one shot in 28 minutes. His passivity on offense was on full display last game, spending much of the night coasting in the corner, waiting for the ball to come to him. Nurse correctly opted to yank him in the fourth quarter and roll with Terence Davis instead, whose brazen style of play is enough to make even the most casual fans giddy.
OG is far too athletic to remain stationary through an entire game, yet he can’t quite create for himself just yet. His dribble is clunky, but he should still cut to the rim far more than he has of late. Anunoby’s averaged just 4.6 points over his last ten outings, not once putting up double-digit shot attempts in a single game. To be fair, his defense has remained stout, but this is the longest stretch of offensive inactivity we’ve seen from OG this season. He’ll need to step it up come playoff time if the Raptors are going to have enough counters once the opposition keys in defensively on Siakam.
Traditionally, the Raptors have done an excellent job of guarding the paint. Nick Nurse’s defensive schemes are usually centred around guarding the opposing team’s best player, while attempting to send help on shooters who position themselves around the perimeter on kick-outs. However, that playstyle often leads to open threes, namely from the corner.
The Pacers aren’t exactly known as gunners from long range — in fact, they attempt the least three-point shots in the entire league — but, when Indiana does shoot the ball from outside, the team finds success. The Pacers are currently the league’s sixth most efficient team from three (37.1%), so it’s no surprise the Raptors allowed nearly double the Pacers’ average made-threes per game on Wednesday.
With Marc Gasol out, the Raptors were forced to shift much of their length from the perimeter to the paint, leading to more three-point attempts from the Pacers. Norman Powell’s perimeter activity on the defensive end is sorely missed, so the Raptors will look to Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw (ugh) and OG Anunoby for some additional help in this area. Malcolm Brogdon, Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday showered the Raptors with threes last game, so I expect to see some focus on quicker closeouts tonight.
Over his tenure with the Raptors, Kyle Lowry has been oft-described as a leader whose deft impact on the game doesn’t always show up in traditional box scores. He leads the franchise in various non-traditional metrics, including box plus/minus, win shares and value over replacement player.
It’s a testament to his longstanding excellence that he’s also just nine points away from passing Vince Carter for third on the Raptors’ all-time points scored list. Likely, this achievement will happen tonight after just recently passing José Calderón as the Raptors’ all-time leader in assists.
With just one more year left on his contract, it’s vital to appreciate Kyle’s greatness while he’s still on the roster. Ideally, the Raptors re-sign him to a reasonable long-term deal that carries into retirement after granting him a legacy extension worth $31 million next season, but I digress. There will be lots of Kyle appreciation talk tonight, and I’m here for it. You should be too.