That photo above was taken from the team charter, where the Raptors were returning from Chicago fresh off an 85-79 road win — their sixth road win in their last seven away from Air Canada Centre.
The Raptors can only hope that 2014 picks up where 2013 left off when they open the new year against the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto is 3-0 to start a stretch 11 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents and they’re about to hit the most difficult part of it starting tonight.
Like the Raptors, the Pacers are 8-3 in their last 11 games. They’ve won five straight games and have done it in impressive fashion — crushing every opponent by at least 14 points.
After the Pacers, the Raptors head out to face the Wizards (a team they’d face in the firt round if the playoffs started today — I know, they don’t), the Heat and the Pacers again in Indianapolis.
Key Stat – Raptors Fourth Quarters: It should be fascinating to see these two teams if things get close in the final quarter of tonight’s game.
According to tonight’s Game Notes, the Raptors have outscored opponents in the fourth quarter in nine of their last 11 games for a +65 scoring margin. That’s lead to comeback wins in Dallas, OKC, New York and another last night in Chicago.
During that stretch, Toronto is shooting .475 (104-for-219) from the field in the fourth quarter, while holding opponents to .378 (83-for-222) shooting.
The Pacers, owners of the league’s best defensive rating, are coming off an impressive fourth quarter, as they held the Cavs to 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting from the field in the fourth on their way to a 91-76 win in Indy.
Key Matchup – Jonas Valanciunas vs. Roy Hibbert: Jonas Valanciunas has averaged 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during this Raptors 11-game run, and he’ll need a big effort tonight against Hibbert.
The Pacers big man recorded his eighth game with at least five blocks this season to go with 19 points on Tuesday and he owned this matchup in the first meeting of the season back on November 8th. Hibbert went 9-for-14 for 20 pts and seven rebounds, while Valanciunas was held to 2-of-6 shooting for four points to go with five rebounds.
Ring In The New Year, Re-write The Record Books: Two fairly significant changes are coming to a couple of all-time Raptors records.
DeMar DeRozan is 23 points away from becoming #5 on the Raptors all-time points list…
1. Chris Bosh 10275
2. Vince Carter 9420
3. Andrea Bargnani 6581
4. Morris Peterson 6498
5. Jose Calderon 5235
6. DeMar DeRozan 5213
… while Amir Johnson is nine rebounds from moving to #4 all-time in franchise history. As you can see, he’ll jump to #3 very quickly after that.
1. Chris Bosh 4776
2. Antonio Davis 2839
3. Andrea Bargnani 2095
4. Vince Carter 2091
5. Amir Johnson 2083
By The Numbers: Raptors @ Pacers
|2013-14 AVERAGES||2013-14 RANKINGS|
Last Time They Met: Raptors 84, Pacers 91 – Nov. 8, 2013