It’s a tall task for the Raptors tonight in the midst of their first losing streak of the season against the Pacers (7 PM ET, TSN2, Sportsnet 590 The FAN).
The slide has only been two games, but there’s been an inconsistency to the way the Raptors have started this season and some troubling early numbers back that up.
The Raptors’ third loss in their last four games against the Bobcats on Wednesday featured a bizarre finish, but head coach Dwane Casey was more concerned by the porous defensive start that saw the Bobcats shoot 75 per cent from the field and take a 14-point lead into the second frame.
“Our approach in the first quarter was very unlike us,” Casey said. “We did not play the way we did the last three quarters. This is a great learning lesson for us. Never leave winning the game to the last couple of possessions.”
Offensively, the Raptors rank 10th in offensive efficiency (101.5 points per 100 possessions), but they average only 93.5 possessions per game. That ranks the Raptors last in the league in terms of pace, which seems like an oddity given the athleticism at this team’s disposal. Ball movement also remains an issue to start the season for the Raptors, only the Boston Celtics average fewer assists per game than Toronto’s 16.4.
The Pacers meanwhile, remain the league’s last undefeated team and are off to a dominant start — particularly on the defensive end where they’re once again top of the heap in defensive rating (an astounding 85.6 points allowed per 100 possessions).
They’re missing some parts due to injuries to point guard George Hill and small forward Danny Granger, but they’ve displayed some impressive depth (Lance Stephenson and Luis Scola in particular) and Paul George (25.8 ppg. 8.2 rebs, 4 asts, 1.8 stls) looks like a possible MVP candidate early on.
Will We See More Jonas?
Jonas Watch continues after the big man looked very solid posting his first double-double of the season on Wednesday (12 pts, 10 rebs), but logged only 28 minutes and sat for the entire fourth quarter.
He’s made the most of his time and touches in first quarters, but has been limited from that point on for a number of reported reasons. Matching up against smaller lineups is one of them, which should be less of a factor tonight against the bruising Roy Hibbert.
Success At The Fieldhouse
At the very least, the Raptors know they can win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Three games between the Raptors and Pacers were decided by two points last season, with each team winning on the road twice.
Most notable among those visits for the Raptors? Never forget “Amir-acle”…
Indianapolis has been otherwise unkind to the Raptors, as those two wins last season improved their record to just 9-24 all-time on the road against the Pacers.
Hansbrough Returns To Indy
That game above was also where Tyler Hansbrough happened. He is, of course, a Raptor now and it should be fascinating to see the veteran suit up for the first time against the team that drafted him 13th overall in 2009.
D.J. Augustin had a similar experience against the Bobcats (who drafted him on Wednesday, but he also played with the Pacers last season averaging 4.7 points, 2.2 assists and 16.9 minutes in 76 games.