- PG: George Hill
- SG: Monta Ellis
- SF: Paul George
- PF: Lavoy Allen
- C: Ian Mahinmi
Indiana Pacers vs. Toronto Raptors Game 1 Preview
The Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers clash in post-season play for the first time ever this Saturday, when game one tips off at Air Canada Centre at 12:30 pm ET.
Paul George leads the Pacers back into the playoffs after missing most of last year due to a leg injury and watching Indiana watch the playoffs at home. Indiana was a legit title threat as recently as two seasons ago, but a remade roster has George and co. fighting an uphill battle as the Eastern Conference’s 7th seed. They could be completely over-matched in this series, or George could rise up and carry his team to a shocking upset.
The story is much different for the 2nd seeded Raptors, who aim to toss aside the nightmare of a 4-0 sweep in the first round last year by the hands of the Wizards. Toronto took home the Atlantic Division title for the third straight season, finishing one win below the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. They can use game one and this first round series to show the world they’re the East’s true #1 team, or they could drown in the sorrows that haunted them of a year ago.
The Pacers switched up their style considerably heading into the 2015-16 NBA season, shedding the weight of offensive liability Roy Hibbert and getting sleeker and more efficient up front. That led to the drafting of talented rookie big man Myles Turner, who in spurts has offered some solid inside scoring and shows potential as a rebounder and shot-blocker.
Inconsistency plagues Indiana down low, however, as Turner often plays like a rookie and the likes of Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi are fairly one-dimensional products. Hill is necessary against bigger teams and can score in bunches, but has proven to be a serious liability as a defender. Mahinmi can hold his own offensively in the right matchup, but is erratic in that area and really packs a punch as a defensive banger in the paint.
More inconsistency can be found at the guard spots, where George Hill provides outside shooting (erratic, no less) and little else, while Monta Ellis is an inefficient jump shooter who struggles to find his niche at times within the offense.
Paul George (23 points per game) is naturally the heart and soul of the Pacers, as he’s gone through a remarkable recovery in coming back from a compound fracture he sustained two summers ago. He’s followed up by quality role players and better than average depth, as Ty Lawson, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Solomon Hill, Lavoy Allen and the aforementioned Jordan Hill have all proven to be more than serviceable in sports during the season.
While certainly not lacking talent, Indiana often can fall in love with the jumper and fail to find the best shot offensively. That can lead to offensive lulls and general inconsistency, which can put them in holes and/or put unwanted pressure on a defense that teeters on average to decent.
|4/13/16||At Bucks||Win 97-92|
|4/12/16||VS Knicks||Win 102-90|
|4/10/16||VS Nets||Win 129-105|
|4/8/16||At Raptors||Lost 111-98|
|4/6/16||VS Cavaliers||Win 123-109|
Toronto is no stranger to the top of the Atlantic Division, as the 2015-16 season marks their third straight trip to the mountain top. That hasn’t so far led to any playoff success, as the Raptors’ last post-season win still dates back to the days of Vince Carter.
The Raptors clearly noted this after getting swept in round one last year and got tougher on the outside, bringing in perimeter lockdown defender DeMarre Carroll and defensive big man Bismack Biyombo. Carroll’s impact wasn’t felt over the course of the season due to a lengthy knee injury, but the team got to see what Biyombo could do when center Jonas Valanciunas missed time with a hand issue.
Rookie Norman Powell also made a name for himself as a serviceable scorer, but an even peskier defender. With Carroll back in the fold, the Raptors now have a tenacious rotation of wing defenders and bruisers down low, allowing them to matchup with just about anyone.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan continue to be the driving force behind Toronto’s offense, as both can hit the outside shot and take games over at anytime. Lowry is a borderline ace defender that can stifle even the best point guards, as well, while DMR can hold his own on the other end. That’s really where the luxury of Powell and Carroll come in, of course, as their presence allows DeRozan to focus more on offense.
The one glaring hole in Toronto’s roster is the power forward position. Just like Indiana, they start a pedestrian talent in Luis Scola and behind him (mostly Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson) there isn’t much more to get excited about. All three players can chip in with some modest offense and give solid enough effort on defense, but they aren’t go-to scorers and are painfully erratic.
Needless to say, despite their efforts to improve with some extra toughness, Toronto is again going to go as far as Lowry and DeRozan can take them.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Luis Scola
- C: Jonas Valanciunas
|4/13/16||At Nets||Win 103-96|
|4/12/16||VS 76ers||Win 122-98|
|4/10/16||At Knicks||Win 93-89|
|4/8/16||VS Pacers||Win 111-98|
|4/7/16||At Hawks||Lost 96-87|
|4/8/16||Raptors 111, Pacers 98|
|3/17/16||Raptors 101, Pacers 94 (OT)|
|12/14/15||Pacers 106, Raptors 90|
|10/28/15||Raptors 106, Pacers 99|
Toronto owned Indiana this year, winning three of four meetings. The telling stat here is Toronto’s ease on offense compared to a typically lethargic Indiana offense. Needless to say, the Raptors’ extra defensive bite showed up in three of four battles, while Indiana’s only win this year coming at home.
Toronto’s hold over the Pacers isn’t just restricted to the 2015-16 season, either, as Toronto won all three games the year before and has won 8 of the past 11 contests (8-0 at Air Canada Centre).
Matchup: Raptors vs Pacers
|Win/Loss||56 / 26 (32-9 Home)||45 / 37 (19-22 Away)|
Preview & Predictions
Both teams enter the weekend fairly hot, as Toronto has won four straight and the Pacers come in as winners of their last three (four of their last five). The Raptors are the more impressive squad on the surface, as they rivaled the Cavs for the best record in the Eastern Conference, dominated the conference in general, and are quite scary especially on their home floor.
It doesn’t help that Indiana is a bit below them across the board (below .500 on the road, less potent offense, less imposing defense), and when you add in Toronto’s offensive versatility, this first game could quickly feel over-whelming for Indiana. Toronto has at least three wing players that can effectively create offense on the fly, and in a lot of ways they have five defensive stoppers. Indiana really only has two guys that can create offense, as well as just three defensive stoppers.
It’s easy to rack up the way Toronto wins game one (or even the series). The big issue comes with their collapse last year and the fact that they haven’t won a playoff game in over a decade. That can be a dark cloud hanging over any team, no matter how good they are. If the Pacers come out and hit the Raptors in the mouth early, are we suddenly looking at a 0-1 hole? And given Toronto’s shaky past, does a 0-1 hole plant a seed of doubt that evolves into another first round exit?
It certainly could, but it’s still doubtful. The reality is the Pacers have been a fringe playoff team all year because of two troublesome truths: they don’t always play their best ball when they need to and they don’t perform well consistently on the road. Toronto makes their living at Air Canada Centre and the time is now for a very talented, deep and hardened team to state their claim to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors are the obvious pick to win this series, regardless of how game one goes. They have the better team and hold home court advantage, so they’d have to really implode to blow the entire series. However, based on their home record, Indiana’s road record and the fact that there is no way they’re going to lack focus in this one after what happened last season, we can expect the Raptors to come out very determined to avoid even the mere possibility of a sweep.
Look for DeMarre Carroll to give Paul George fits and make someone else beat the Raptors on Saturday. Since that’s not overly likely, Toronto should stand firm at home and go up, 1-0. Due to being at home, being the better team and having that extra motivation, Toronto feels like a good bet to cover in this game one showdown. It doesn’t hurt that the Raptors beat the Pacers by 7+ points in each of their wins this year, either.
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