The 2015-16 NBA season is finally here as the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers are set to face off at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. For both teams, this will be the first of 82 regular season games while the Raptors will kick off their season at home, and the Pacers will hit the road.
Toronto will play 11 out of their first 15 games on the road, a tough way to start a season. It is important that they can take care of business in the few home games they have in their first 15, and it all starts with game one. The fans will be excited for the new season and Indiana will look to spoil the party.
Both teams will be coming into the season with a new look. The Raptors have shaken things up this offseason by adding defensive stoppers like DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph, who can also play smart, productive basketball on the offensive end. The team also added some frontcourt depth, signing Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo.
Biyombo will add some much-needed defense and rim protecting off the bench. Scola spent his last two seasons with the Pacers and will have a chance to play his former team in his first game wearing a Raptor uniform. Not returning for the Raptors will be bigs Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough as well as bench guards Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez.
Paul George, who played in just six games last season due to injury, will be returning to the Pacers lineup against Toronto. The Pacers took a big step back last year because of George’s offseason injury as well as Lance Stephenson’s departure. With George back and some other new pieces to go with him, this season will be a fresh start for Indiana, and they should be able to make a case for a playoff spot.
Among other moves, Indiana signed guard Monta Ellis this summer. Ellis is unquestionably talented; the only question is whether or not the former Dallas Maverick can develop consistency with the Pacers. Speaking of inconsistency, on the move for the Pacers this offseason was Roy Hibbert. The former All-Star signed with the Los Angeles Lakers after seven years of ups and downs in Indiana. Veteran power forward David West also parted ways with Indiana this summer. The 35-year-old took a pay cut to sign with the San Antonio Spurs in hopes of winning a title as he nears the latter stages of his career.
This game brings some intriguing matchups to watch out for. In the backcourt, Ellis will be paired up with seventh-year Raptor DeMar DeRozan at shooting guard. Ellis has a new team, and DeRozan is in a contract year, so both have something to prove this season and are very effective players when at their best. This matchup will be one to keep an eye on throughout the game.
George is an electrifying player when healthy; some might even call him a darkhorse MVP candidate this year. Last season, this matchup would have caused problems for Toronto as it would have been either Terrence Ross, who is much smaller than George, or Amir Johnson guarding the 25-year-old.
Johnson is not a bad defender, but George may have been a little too much to handle for him. But that was last season, and this year is a different story. When the Raptors signed Carroll, the main idea was to bring in an elite defender to guard superstars like George. The 29-year-old is known for his ability to slow down great players with his tenacious, gritty defense while still contributing to the offensive end as well. While George is expected to play the four this season, that will not stop Carroll from guarding him as matchups like this are a huge reason he was brought in to Toronto. In the NBA, it is virtually impossible to stop a superstar altogether, but it will be interesting to see how much he can slow George down.
The two teams in this matchup are optimistic about this season and there is no denying that both the Raptors and Pacers have a lot of talent. Both franchises, however, still have some glaring question marks, but this season is all about answering those questions and taking the next step. It will be critical for both teams to get off to a quick start this season, but only one team can take game one.
Action gets underway from Toronto on Wednesday, October 28th at 7:30 EST.