The Toronto Raptors should be angry. Coming off of an ugly loss to the New York Knicks that included the worst margin of defeat in a quarter in franchise history, it would follow that the Raptors will want to erase that taste from their mouths as quickly as possible. Thanksgiving can only do so much in that regard.
To do so, they’ll have to contend with a tough Indiana Pacers team that’s out to a 10-8 start, is really firing on offense, and represents a decent enough test at the other end thanks to a very good rim protector. Victor Oladipo is having a breakout year, Domantas Sabonis looks much better than as a rookie, and Myles Turner has been about what he was last year – which is quite good – when healthy. Add in some savvy veteran pieces around them, some unseasonably hot 3-point shooters from a few players who aren’t normally this good (the Pacers rank No. 1 in the league in 3-point percentage but 28th in how often they take them), and the Pacers look like a fringe playoff team in the East once again despite the loss of Paul George.
There are areas for the Raptors to attack. The Pacers run fairly thin, utilizing a tight rotation, and it’s a rotation that’s a little weak on the glass. Nate McMillan’s defensive system also runs conservative, with the Pacers fouling less than any team in the NBA. That’s a challenge for a foul-magnet team like Toronto but also an opportunity, since the Pacers aren’t adept at forcing turnovers (the Raptors have struggled defending in transition) and because that strategy sometimes requires conceding decent looks to stay at home.
The Pacers aren’t an easy out, and the Raptors will have to turn in a much more consistent effort than Wednesday to secure a win that feels pretty necessary, silly though that might be in November.
The game tips off at 8 on Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
While the Raptors got good news with respect to Delon Wright and Norman Powell on Wednesday, some even better news has them shorthanded once again Friday. C.J. Miles and wife Lauren welcomed their first child into the world last night, and Miles is away from the team for that joyous occasion. Our congratulations to the beautiful family on the birth of their daughter.
With Miles down, it should mark a big opportunity for Powell to see ample run and try to get a rhythm back. He was solid shooting the ball in his first game back after missing four due to a hip pointer, but he looked a little out of sorts otherwise. It’s unclear if him coming off of the bench will continue indefinitely or only until he’s back to 100 percent, but it would make sense for him to play a reserve role here given the imbalance in scoring between the two units. That would mean OG Anunoby continues to start, tasked with either chasing Bojan Bogdanvoic around the 3-point line or keeping a red-hot Victor Oladipo in check.
Elsewhere, Jakob Poeltl would seem a better matchup against a rangy Pacers team than Lucas Nogueira, but the real key here might be giving Jonas Valanciunas a quick hook so that he can match up for some bench minutes opposite Al Jefferson, should Jefferson play. That’s a look the Raptors will need Valanciunas’ rebounding for and one he’s well-suited to take advantage of at both ends of the floor. Turner is a real challenge in the starting lineup, too, and the Pacers will play small with Domantas Sabonis at the five, so there’s additional benefit to splitting Valanciunas from Serge Ibaka early on and giving both some time with bench-heavy groups so they aren’t tethered together.
UPDATE: Anunoby is, indeed, starting.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Delon Wright, C.J. Miles
905: Malcolm Miller, Bruno Caboclo
Indiana enters mostly healthy, with Myles Turner saying earlier in the week that his tweaked ankle will be “fine” for this one. Turner missing the game would be an enormous loss for a Pacers team that’s beating expectations early in large part because of how their young pieces are meshing, and while Turner hasn’t taken a statistical leap forward, he’s a big part of that. He’ll be a real challenge, the type of center with enough bulk to work inside, enough length to provide serious rim protection, and enough range to take centers away from the basket. He’s also had a fine chemistry with Thaddeus Young in the smaller starting lineup, though he and Domantas Sabonis have been a bit of a mess in a tiny sample together.
Nate McMillan keeps a pretty tight rotation, with only eight players factoring in outside of garbage time the last few games. It’s the starters, super-sub and old friend Cory Joseph, Sabonis as the third big, and Lance Stephenson as a roving stop-gap everywhere else.
PG: Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Joseph Young
SG: Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic, Damien Wilkins
PF: Thaddeus Young, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf
C: Myles Turner, Al Jefferson, Ike Anigbogu
OUT: Glenn Robinson
Fort Wayne: Alex Poythress, Edmond Sumner
- Over at The Athletic, I broke down a play Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have used to connect on alley-oops three games in a row and many times over the last few years. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription at this link.
- Bruno Caboclo remains with Raptors 905 ahead of a weekend back-to-back. It’s possible Alfonzo McKinnie or Lorenzo Brown are assigned for Sunday’s 905 afternoon game, depending on when the team returns home.
- Canada has their first FIBA qualifier tonight at 7, and we’ll have a recap of that one for you here. Over at Vice, I wrote about the importance of the growth of CIS/USports for Canadian athletes and for Canada Basketball’s senior men’s team specifically.
- The Two Matts Two Pats podcast that Raptors.com releases, rebranded this year with the loss of Patrick Patterson, featured Fred VanVleet this week. It’s a fun listen.
New podcast!@Matt__Devlin & @tierchild are joined on the road by guest host @FredVanVleet as Fred reflects on his journey from Rockford, Illinois to the @NBA. Also remember no one is safe from Fred’s IG Story. #WeTheNorth
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 24, 2017
- We’re drawing a name tonight to give away another pair of tickets with InTheActionSeats.com:
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 21, 2017
- OG Anunoby’s shootaround scrum about returning to Indiana is hilarious:
The Raptors are 2-point favorites with a 216 over-under and the majority of action going their way.