The Toronto Raptors host the Indiana Pacers as part of their four-game homestand tonight at Scotiabank Arena. Coach Nick Nurse and the Raptors are still searching for their first home win since guess what? Since they defeated the Indiana Pacers back on February 23, 2020.
There’s a lot of similarities between the two teams. They’re both entering the game near the bottom of the standings, with a 1-3 record. Both teams have rookies that outperform their projections, as Chris Duarte and Scottie Barnes are neck-and-neck on the ROTY race as of this early season. They are also missing some key players, with Caris LeVert yet to make his season debut for the Pacers. He is questionable for tonight’s game, but he just recently returned to practice, so it might take him a few days until he’s ready to go. Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam is still out for the Raptors but could be nearing his return. Siakam has also started practicing with no restrictions.
Pascal Siakam (shoulder) went live at practice today, no restrictions, as did Yuta Watanabe. Both will practice with Raptors 905 on Wednesday. Watanabe is considered 'close', but it would seem Siakam *might* be ahead of schedule, based on previous target of mid-to-late Nov.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 26, 2021
Of course, there are differences. The Raptors have no issues defending their opponents, as they are holding teams to 99.7 points per game, but their spotty offense is killing their chances of winning/stealing a game. On the other hand, the Pacers don’t have any issue with scoring (it’s not elite-level scoring, but it looks like one compared to the Raptors), but they have issues stopping their opponents from scoring.
Could tonight be the night that could make the fans at the Scotiabank Arena erupt? The Raptors’ perimeter shooting would need to step up for that to happen, as the Pacers can easily pack the paint. Perhaps assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren can give the team some insider info and get his revenge game?
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Indiana – Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Toronto – Pascal Siakam (shoulder – out), Yuta Watanabe (calf – out)
Indiana – Caris LeVert – questionable (sore back), Kelan Martin - out (sore left hamstring), T.J. Warren – out (left foot stress fracture)
Starters settling down
The Raptors are last in the league in FG% at 40%, but the game against the Chicago Bulls follows a trend of the Raptors showing a semblance of half-court offense. Heading into the game, the Raptors were 37.6%, but against the Bulls, they shot 48.2%. Part of the bump comes from OG Anunoby, who rediscovered his offense, and Fred VanVleet, doing a better job orchestrating their offense. Now that with Gary Trent Jr. in the starting lineup, there seems to be a better balance on both ends of the court. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, like the bench and in-between lineups that are still shaky at best.
Setting the tone
It’s starting to be a theme at the start of every season where Nick Nurse would call out some of his players for not playing up to standards. Nurse previously called out Chris Boucher for his subpar performance a couple of games ago, and recently, he pretty much said that Malachi Flynn is in the dog house until he beats the incumbents ahead of him. Well, so far, when Nurse called out his players in past seasons, they have responded well, so let’s see what happens with Flynn next.
Historically, the Raptors have been a low turnover team. Even in the forgettable season at Tampa, they only turned the ball over 13.2 times per game. The 21 turnovers against the Chicago Bulls were uncharacteristic — or are they? Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes lead the team in turnovers with 4.5 and 3.3 turnovers per game this season. However, most of their turnovers come from either lack of familiarity or trying to do too much.
Kyle Lowry’s presence spoiled us with his floor leadership, putting people to the right spots, making/adjusting passes that lead his teammates to the opportunities, and the best part — knowing his teammates’ tendencies. Just remember how his pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop passes to Serge Ibaka was always served on a silver platter. In comparison, VanVleet makes passes where he expects his teammates should be, so there’s a lot of 50/50 situations if the recipient is not in perfect position, resulting in deflections and turnovers. Barnes, on the other hand, freestyles his passes, and that will require some adjustment period for his teammates to get used to. Both players are going through growing pains of playmaking against a set defense, but expect things to get better (turnover-wise) in the next few weeks as they develop more chemistry.