With only 11 games remaining in the Toronto Raptors’ very weird and pretty disappointing 2022-2023 season, the time to lock in, if it weren’t already, is nigh. Sitting at 9th in the Eastern Conference, Toronto is set to take on the back-sliding Indiana Pacers who could be without their best player, and one of the best pure point guards in the league, in Tyrese Haliburton. While Raptor-killers Buddy Hield and Myles Turner are on track to play, Wednesday night’s matchup against the Pacers is an absolute must-win if Toronto hopes to stay in the play-in picture and get closer to the 8th seed Atlanta Hawks, who hold the tie-breaker over the Raptors.
Hoping to flush away the memory of a 1-for-10 shooting display to open the fourth quarter against the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks, can Toronto get back into the win column at home against the Pacers, where they have an excellent 23-13 record? Let’s dig in!
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Indiana – Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Jordan Nwora, Aaron Nesmith, Myles Turner
Toronto – Dalano Banton (thumb – out), Scottie Barnes (wrist – questionable), Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
Indiana – Kendall Brown (leg – out), Chris Duarte (ankle – questionable), Tyrese Haliburton (ankle – questionable)
Home Sweet Home
As mentioned earlier, the Raptors went on the road for one measly game against the best team in the NBA and guess what happened? They played an extremely competitive 42-minutes but were bogged down to begin the fourth where they shot 1-10 to open the frame and ultimately lost. Lulls like that can’t happen against the best team in the league, but at home, against a much, err, less good team in the Indiana Pacers? Well, let’s just say that there is a bit of a larger margin for error.
Nonetheless, no team wants to put that margin of error to the test and Toronto has been ripping hot at home, winning seven straight. After that miserably close loss to the Bucks, the Raptors can look back to 4, 6, and 8 days ago where they beat their opponents at home by no less than 15-points each time. Continuity is important and home cooking has been just what the Raptors have needed to soothe their road-weary souls.
A Tale of Pace
If the Toronto Raptors had things their way, they would be ranked number one in the NBA in pace. Not only do the Raptors love to turn their opponents over with their swarming defense — when they’re locked in, of course — but they also happen to be really, really bad on offense in the half-court. Alas, as it turns out, they aren’t ranked first and are actually 25th in the league. The Pacers, on the other hand, are ranked 8th in pace and hope to turn this matchup into a track meet where their young guns can stretch their legs. That strategy could go one of two ways:
1. The Raptors manage to stem some of the bleeding they give up in transition and routinely make the right read when they’re running the ball, leading to a walloping of the Pacers.
2. The Raptors continue to struggle with their transition defense and routinely, seemingly on purpose, forget that there is an extra — or even a first — pass that they could make that would lead to a score.
I don’t know about you, but I’m rooting for the former!
Keep O.G. Involved
O.G. Anunoby has been the best player on the Raptors since the calendar flipped over to March. Period. Full stop. Not only has he guarded the likes of back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he has shot *checks notes* SIXTY ONE PERCENT from the field and, hold on, no, this can’t be right, wait, is there a font that’s larger than all caps, because, wow, yeah, it’s right, FIFTY TWO PERCENT from three! All while being somewhere between the third and fourth option on any given night.
Yes, OG’s offensive bag hasn’t quite progressed to the point where he can routinely create for himself, but while he’s shooting like this, it would behoove the Raptors to change next to nothing about Anunoby’s offensive game plan.