Season Series: Pacers 2-1
The Toronto Raptors will try to split their season series against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre. While the Raptors could be without Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson for the second straight game —and DeMar DeRozan will be playing with a non-shooting hand that has five stitches down the middle — they’ve looked better than the Pacers in recent weeks.
Indiana has looked like a very different team than the one that started the season with a 16-1 record. Since returning to earth, the Pacers still looked like one of the best two teams in the Eastern Conference. Then March happened. With 18 games in the month, the Pacers posted an 8-10 record and have been unable to get back on track. They cannot score. In five of their last seven games they didn’t even break 80 points.
Toronto was able to bounce back from a loss to the Heat in Miami and collect a big win against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. With Lowry and Johnson sidelined, DeRozan came up big for the Raptors. They will need him to have another strong performance against the Pacers, regardless of who is or isn’t in uniform.
What To Watch
Paul George: Only a few months ago, Paul George was being mentioned in the MVP conversation. An immensely talented young player, blessed with the ability to put points on the board in a hurry while also a skilled lock-down defender, George has struggled offensively in March. On the season, George is averaging 21.7 points per contest on 47-percent shooting. In Wednesday’s Pacers victory in Detroit, though, George finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Backup point guards: When Lowry missed Wednesday’s game, Greivis Vasquez started in his place. A capable starter, Vasquez filled in well, finishing with 15 points and eight assists. Since receiving Nando De Colo from the San Antonio Spurs in a trade deadline deal, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has wanted to get him in the rotation, but hadn’t had much of an opportunity until then. If Lowry misses more time with a bruised left kneecap, both Vasquez and De Colo will be needed to step up. Even if Lowry returns, look for Casey to try to get his reserves some reps to keep them fresh for the postseason.
Patrick Patterson continuing to get comfortable: Since returning from a three-week layoff to rest a sprained elbow, Patterson has had to learn how to shoot with a brace on his arm. He is also trying to get his wind back because daily cardio sessions during rehab cannot replicate NBA game speed. On Wednesday, his second game back, Patterson looked to be shaking off the rust, scoring eight points and playing 26 minutes. As the Raptors’ sixth man off the bench, they need him to continue rounding into form over their remaining seven games.
– “They’re all-stars, they’re leaders, the backbone of this team. Whenever Kyle’s not playing, that allows DeMar to get more shots, more opportunities and he capitalized on that tonight. Whenever DeMar’s not playing, Kyle does the same thing. When they’re both out there, it makes it a lot easier for all of us. When they’re out, it causes everybody to raise their game to another level.” – Patrick Patterson on DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry
– He’s playing an old man’s game. He played great. The charge was huge. I thought he had one in the Miami game and didn’t get the benefit of the doubt. He was there tonight. Those are the kind of winning plays that he’s learning to make and he’s making now other than just scoring. He’s doing a great job of scoring. But there are so many other things [he has to do] when he plays those kinds of minutes. Especially with Kyle [out], he’s got to do a lot more: assists, defence.” – Dwane Casey on DeMar DeRozan’s evolving game against the Houston Rockets
– “They’ve been doing it the whole year. They’ve been doing it the whole year. Both. It’s not hidden that they’re our leaders. We go as they go and everybody understands that. This is why we have a healthy locker room. We’re not fighting egos. We know what’s going on. Those two guys are going to score, those two guys are going to make winning plays for us and we’ve just got to feed off their energy. Whenever those guys go down we’ve got their back, that’s what this team is all about. – Greivis Vasquez on DeRozan and Lowry leading the way all season
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Terrence Ross (F), Amir Johnson (F), Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Raptors: Kyle Lowry – sore left knee (day-to-day), Amir Johnson – sore right ankle (day-to-day)
Pacers: Andrew Bynum – sore right knee (out), C.J. Watson – right hamstring strain (out)
By The Numbers: Raptors vs. Pacers
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Last Time They Met: Raptors 79, Pacers 86 – Jan. 7th, 2014