In their final matchup of the season, the Indiana Pacers will travel across our northern border and face the Toronto Raptors. In the final push for playoff seeding, the Pacers will look to lock up their place in the Eastern Conference against their likely opponent in the first round. This late-season session is important to gear up for the playoffs, but there are other elements that are important to measure up around this time of year.
In the season series, the Toronto Raptors are currently up 2-1 in three highly-contested games. The Raptors and Pacers have different roster strengths, but produce similar results. The high-paced combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan for Toronto has led them to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, but their success isn’t limited to those two; Jonas Valanciunas, Terrance Ross, and off-season additions Cory Joseph and Luis Scola all provide an offensive punch for Toronto.
In the two Toronto wins, Derozan was the offensive catalyst but the secondary option varied. In the most recent contest on March 17th, center Bismack Biyombo put up 16 points and 25 rebounds to help carry the Raptors past the Paceres in overtime. The Pacers’ only win was at home and was led by Jordan Hill and Monta Ellis down the stretch.
Peak at Right Time
The recent form of the Pacers suggests a strong performance in Toronto. The now-7th seed has won three games in a row, the most impressive coming against Cleveland on Wednesday. The Pacers busted up the Cavs on offense, with Paul George scoring 29 and the bench putting up 50 points in a 123-109 win in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The two previous wins against the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks were less impressive but nonetheless wins. The two away games both followed a similar script; the Pacers pulled ahead in the 3rd but almost wasted away their lead in the final quarter, holding off two of the worst teams in the league.
Formula for Success
The Pacers will need to rely on their recent streak of outside shooting as the primary offense against the Raptors. Along with Paul and George Hill, CJ Miles will continue to be a factor for the Pacers so long his shot is falling. Toronto has two good frontcourt defenders in Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson, so the looks inside will be limited from the get-go. Ian will look to continue scoring efficiently and Myles Turner should be able to work into his jump shot. The fifth starter, whether it be Lavoy Allen or Solomon Hill, will need to bring energy on defense and be prepared to act when called upon.
With their final three games against the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks at home and then the closer on the road in Milwaukee, the Pacers can afford to lose this contest without compromising much in the playoff hunt. The division rival Detroit Pistons are still only a half-game back, but the Pacers hold the upper hand in the tie-breaker and in ease of schedule for the closing run.
The Raptors could prove a formidable challenge in the playoffs, but don’t expect this game to mirror a playoff performance for either team. With only a handful of games left until the playoffs, both teams will hide their plays and try and win with being the better team, not via strategy.