Raptors Likely Without Bargnani Against Pacers

Following some Raptors news on the injury front, here’s what to watch as they prepare for a second meeting with the Pacers at ACC tonight (7PM, TSN2,  FAN590, GET TICKETS).

Projected Starters
TOR –
Jose Calderon (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Rasual Butler (F),  *Andrea Bargnani (F), Amir Johnson (C).
IND –
Darren Collison (G), Paul George (G), Danny Granger (F), David West (F), Roy Hibbert (C).

Key Injuries
TOR
– *Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) – day-to-day, Jerryd Bayless (sprained left ankle) – day-to-day, Aaron Gray (ablation procedure) – OUT
IND -
George Hill (sore back) – day-to-day

Offence Without Andrea: Bargnani (strained left calf) was downgraded to doubtful for tonight’s game against the Pacers and according to head coach Dwane Casey after shootaround, he probably will not play tonight and beyond that remains day-to-day. There’s been no word if he’ll travel with the team as they begin a three-game road trip in Chicago tomorrow.

The former first overall pick’s defence has been much improved this season, but Bargnani’s real absence will unquestionably be as the team’s primary offensive weapon at 22.3 points per game.

His usage rating of 28.87 is well above the league average and among starters only 10 names — including Bryant, Anthony, Wade, Durant and James among them — shoulder more of the offensive load for their teams.

Look for Jamaal Magloire to see more time and possibly start against Pacers big man Roy Hibbert, but he may not be the only player getting more of an opportunity.

Ed Davis and James Johnson could see more time at multiple positions, as could Linas Kleiza — who returned to the lineup Wednesday and should gradually see his minutes increase with time at both forward spots.

Effective ball movement, a balanced scoring attack among both units and limiting turnovers will be musts if the Raptors hope to survive offensively without Bargnani tonight.

DeMar DeRozan, whose struggles have been well documented of late (the best of which came from Eric Koreen of the National Post and Tim Chisholm of Sympatico.ca),  may also find himself with a real opportunity to play his way out of his early-season funk.

Competition Ramps Up: After a concentrated series of games against some of the weaker teams in the league, the Raptors schedule is about to present a much different kind of challenge to the Raptors over the next 10 days.

Jan. 13 vs. Pacers (7-3)
Jan. 14 @   Bulls (10-2)
Jan. 16 @   Hawks (8-4)
Jan. 18 @   Celtics (4-5)
Jan. 20 vs. Blazers (7-3)
Jan. 22 @   Clippers (5-3)

That’s a combined record of 41-20 for those six opponents, with tonight’s matchup one of only two games at ACC. The final game of that stretch against the Clips also starts a four-game West Coast trip.  A win tonight at home starts a very difficult stretch off on the right foot for the Raptors.

Can They Adjust Defensively? The Raptors have shown the ability beat an opponent twice this season with a pair of wins over the Cavs, now they’ll try to make adjustments against an opponent after a close defeat that offered plenty of room for improvement.

They Raptors clawed back from as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter of the home opener, but the sum effect of too many 19 turnovers and an inability to close out on Indiana shooters (Paul George early, Danny Granger and David West late) ultimately did them in. Look for better play in those areas tonight.

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