The Toronto Raptors are back in Gainbridge Fieldhouse to play the Indiana Pacers tonight, one last game on the road before they head back home. Hopefully, the Raptors won’t be too bloated from all of the Thanksgiving dinner sides, as they have a tough matchup ahead of them.
The last time these two teams met, the Raptors had to weather the Caris LeVert minutes (he played with minutes restriction), and he came out hot, scoring 15 points in 16 minutes while wreaking havoc on the Raptors’ defense. Fortunately for the Raptors, Scottie Barnes came to the rescue, leading the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds that night.
There’s a lot at stake for tonight’s game for the Raptors. For one, it’s a chance to get back to .500. The Raptors are currently 12th in the East, but a win should keep them from dropping off from the middle of the pack of the Eastern Conference standings with the 7-12 seeds that seem to change every night. A win tonight can salvage Toronto’s horrible start to their road trip, potentially ending up with a 3-3 record. Lastly, a win against the Pacers gives the Raptors their season series against the Pacers. Who knows when that would come in handy.
Did I say that the Raptors have a tough matchup ahead? Well, the Raptors are missing their starting centre as Khem Birch is out again with a knee swelling. Precious Achiuwa filled in great against the Memphis Grizzlies, as he went unconscious in the 3rd quarter, dropping 17 points while looking like an all-star during that stretch. It’s still unknown whether OG Anunoby will play tonight, as he has missed four straight games due to a hip contusion. The Pacers’ front line of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner will be a handful, especially if the Raptors struggle from the perimeter. It looked like Turner blocked everything within his radius the last time they played.
Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN4, 8:00 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Indiana – Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon
Toronto – OG Anunoby (hip – questionable), Khem Birch (knee – OUT)
Indiana – TJ Warren (foot – OUT)
Last season, Pascal Siakam’s struggles were well documented. Unfortunately, his return to form late in the season went under the radar, and a shoulder injury ended his season early. This situation must be tough for Siakam, as he had to start from scratch again, only this time, having limitations on what he could do during the offseason. We saw him struggle to be “the guy” last season, and the team looks like they’re taking a different approach this season.
Siakam hasn’t led the team in scoring this season, and aside from the first game, the Raptors haven’t made him an “every down” offensive option. At times, he would slide from being the first to fourth option on the offense, and he’s playing a lot more off-ball than ever before. Siakam’s letting the game come to him, which is good, and he’s playing more of a role player on both ends of the court. Since there’s no “win-at-all-cost” urgency this season, it would be good if the Raptors can continue to ease Siakam in until he’s ready to be the consistent 1st or 2nd option on a nightly basis.
It’s been a wild Precious Achiuwa experience so far, and the player we’re seeing out there has been wildly inconsistent. Understandably, Achiuwa’s only 22 years old with not a lot of games under his belt. He’s still very raw, but he’s trending in the right direction.
We haven’t seen a constantly out-of-control Achiuwa for a while — and perhaps we have Khem Birch to thank for that. Coming behind Birch seems to have given Achiuwa a front-row seat on Birch’s “less is more” masterclass. The game against the Memphis Grizzlies showed a full quarter of the tip of the iceberg — a patient, confident, in control Achiuwa, while flashing perimeter shooting that drew some comparison to Serge Ibaka. Now, we shouldn’t expect nights like that from Achiuwa, but something in the middle should be more achievable. Oh, and if he can improve his ability to catch the ball on the roll in semi-traffic and finish the vertical passes a little better, now we’re talking.
Coach Nick Nurse is obsessed with shutting down the opposing team’s star player. In the past, that formula worked well as the team had a solid defensive roster and at least a decent offense. However, these past two seasons showed some holes — plenty of holes to this defensive philosophy, as it often led to an offensive explosion from everybody else except for the star that they’re trying to shut down. For the Pacers, the coaching staff game-planned on shutting down Domantas Sabonis. However, given how Caris LeVert sliced the Raptors’ defense previously, they might need to shift their focus on LeVert. After all, he’s been causing problems for the Raptors since his Brooklyn days.