We’re gonna keep things tight off the top here because I did the preview this morning and because there are a lot of smaller notes to get to underneath. Need a refresher on where the Toronto Raptors are at as they set to host the Indiana Pacers tonight? They’re in a fine spot – they’re 13-7 and could be even better had they not squandered a quarter or a possession here and there, they’re top-10 on both ends of the floor, and they’re about to hit a stretch of schedule where the biggest threat to their record will be their own focus and energy.
A good example of this was on display the last time the Raptors played the Pacers, just a week ago.
“Well, I don’t know if it’s a blueprint, but I know one part of the blueprint that’s not good, and that’s 20 turnovers,” head coach Dwane Casey said before the game. “That’s a recipe for any butt-whooping that you’re gonna get.”
The Raptors should have that fresh in their minds, and it will be interesting to see if the persistent talk about coming out of the gate better in each half will lead to a more consistent 48-minute effort in this one. As we know, the Raptors are good enough to win a lot of games even when they don’t have that figured out, but they’ll want to sort it out regardless, if only to quiet the questions about it.
The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN 1/4 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
Some tough news came down before Friday’s game, as Lucas Nogueira has torn a muscle in his calf. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection to aid with healing, and there’s no timeline for his return. Despite some inconsistencies, Nogueira had been playing quite well, grading in elite territory in terms of block- and steal-percentage and shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor. His absence will mean Jakob Poeltl has a full-time handle on the backup center position, and it could mean more minutes playing small with Serge Ibaka at center. Nogueira was averaging 12 minutes and had played rotation minutes in four of the last six games, so this is a bigger hit than the loss of a third-stringer would normally be.
Delon Wright also remains out recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Everyone else is good to go, although some are still figuring certain fits out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira
905: Malcolm Miller, Bruno Caboclo
Myles Turner’s status is still up in the air, with the Pacers’ center a true game-time decision. If Turner can’t go, it’s unclear if Al Jefferson or Domantas Sabonis would start, but either would represent an easier matchup for Jonas Valanciunas, and both could see an expanded role along with T.J. Leaf. The Pacers also have Ike Anigbogu around for depth in the frontcourt, although their game notes show him as in the G League (the official transaction log has him with Indiana, so who knows? I haven’t physically looked for him yet).
Turner’s status will swing the tactical matchup and possibly the betting line. It’s Lance Stephenson, though, that people wanted to talk about before the game, because the last couple of meetings between Stephenson and the Raptors would suggest he’s taking up some residency in their heads.
“Lance is a very dynamic person, personality, and dynamic player,” Casey said. “So if that doesn’t get you excited to play against him, and understand what you’re going against, something’s wrong. So I think our guys know, they understand that he’s a different personality. Like I said, a dynamic personality. ‘Cause if he’s on your team, he can get you going, he can juice you up a little bit. For us, we’ve gotta make sure we’re solid, don’t get caught up into that, just play solid, physical basketball on both ends of the floor.”
UPDATE: Turner is playing.
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, Edmond Sumner
Fort Wayne: Alex Poythress
- DeMar DeRozan was given an honorable mention for Eastern Conference Player of the Month. LeBron James took home the award.
- Over at The Athletic, I’m doing a mini-series on the bench. Part one (why they claim to be the best in the league) and part two (how the bench was constructed) are up. Part three goes Monday. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription at this link.
- Over at Vice Sports, I wrote (quickly) about Fred VanVleet becoming the NBA’s plus-minus king.
- I’ve mentioned this a ton the last while, but John Schuhmann at NBA.com quantifies it – the Raptors have an absolute cake schedule for December. The Raptors currently sit top-10 on both ends of the floor, and that’s against the toughest quarter of their schedule. For December, they’ll play only three games against teams above .500 and 11 against teams below (the Raptors are yet to lose to a sub-.500 team). Even their four-game road-trip is against wholly shaky competition. They do have three games at a distinct rest disadvantage, and still this is looking like a good month to make up some ground.
- Bruno Caboclo remains with Raptors 905, who play at 7 in Maine.
- Speaking of 905, a nice Q&A with Jerry Stackhouse from our man Vivek Jacob over at Sportsnet.
- The Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts will be int he building tonight.
- Cory Joseph is back! He indicated at shootaround that he’s had a ton of ticket requests (teammates have helped him out) and will have 30-40 people in attendance tonight. He seemed genuinely pumped based on the shootaround video. Joseph is just the best human.
The Raptors have moved from 6.5- to 7-point favorites, and the over-under has nudged up from 215.5 to 218.