Playoffs

Pre-game news and notes: Scola wins sportsmanship award, Turner starts, Mahinmi will play

The Toronto Raptors will look to deliver a de facto death knell to the psyche of a reeling Indiana Pacers squad on Saturday, as they tip off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 3 p.m. on TNT (U.S.) Sportsnet (Canada), TSN 1050 (Canadian radio). The Raptors lead the series 2-1 and a win would give them two chances at home – and one on the road – to close out a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history.

Required reading
Here’s what you need ahead of Game 4, assuming you haven’t been keeping up.

*My Game 4 preview was nails, as always. Most of what’s in here is rehashed from that 2,000-word behemoth.
*As an extension of that, here’s a mid-series back-and-forth with Jared Wade of 8P9S.
*The Pacers believe they were outplayed and outworked last game.
*If that’s the case moving forward, there’s just no way for the Pacers to overcome the talent gap at hand.

And read this piece about how well Raptors fans are traveling from the always-excellent Bruce Arthur. And this, on the same topic, from Michael Grange, who may have the cutest puppy on the internet.

Speaking of, I have a few friends who traveled for the game and report the following: Tickets are cheap, tickets are STILL AVAILABLE (lollll), there are a ton of Raptors fans around, and GET THIS, the Pacers are confiscating We the North flags and Raptors signs. You keep trying, Pacers, but there won’t be any drowning out the chants if the Raptors take another in your house.


By the way, the official arena guidelines say 11×17 is the largest sign, but I’ve heard from a few people at the game (and can see from the broadcast) that the rule appears to have been applied inconsistently, gate-to-gate. Which is fine, the tweets were all just for fun/atmosphere, anyway. I hope nobody was actually too worked up.

Raptors updates
The Raptors don’t seem likely to make many tweaks to their rotation after strong Games 2 and 3. Maybe there’s some Norman Powell/T.J. Ross juggling, but given the increased role of DeMarre Carroll, reserve wing minutes are thin, anyway (there were 13 in total in Game 3).

Assuming Lucas Noguiera and Bruno Caboclo draw inactive again and Casey rolls with the same starters, here’s what the rotation will look like:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright)
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, (James Johnson)
PF: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, (Jason Thompson)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo

Just gonna leave these two tweets here and be done with that convo for today.


Pacers updates
Ian Mahinmi (back) is officially good to go despite a lower back sprain, an injury the Pacers said he wouldn’t have played through in Game 3 if it were the regular season. He’s been hobbled, but the Pacers are thin in the frontcourt, and Mahinmi is their best bet on the surging Valanciunas.

But the Pacers going small has also been a popular suggestion as a Game 4 adjustment. That might mean Myles Turner at the four, the lineup Vogel opted for in the second half of Game 3, which isn’t all that small but is a big rangier, or even Turner at the five, with one of Solomon Hill or C.J. Miles at the four. We’ve talked about this a ton already, so check back closer to tip off to see who the Pacers are rolling with.

UPDATE: Turner will start at the four.

Turner is better than Lavoy Allen, full stop, so this should be an improvement for Indiana. And Turner isn’t exactly a beast inside or anything, but he gives the Pacers two big bodies to throw at Valanciunas, if they opt to try to gang-rebound against him. One would have to think Allen is pretty much toast in the rotation, and the Pacers’ second unit will be really small, perhaps with a Jordan Hill sighting.

Or, weirdly, not:


Assuming Rakeem Christmas and Shayne Whittington are your inactives again, the rotation will look something like this:

PG: George Hill, Ty Lawson, (Joseph Young)
SG: Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey
SF: Paul George, C.J. Miles, (Glenn Robinson)
PF: Myles Turner, Solomon Hill
C: Ian Mahinmi, (Lavoy Allen), (Jordan Hill)

Pre-game notes/quotes
*Another popular adjustment suggested has been George trusting his teammates more, something Candace Buckner explained well this week. That’s going to require George’s teammates to reward that trust, though – non-George Pacers are shooting 36.9 percent in the series and have converted just 13 of the 26 potential assists George has dished.

That conversion rate is roughly in line with the league average for the regular season and the postseason so far, but my intuition is that the conversion rate on passes from superstars is higher, given the additional attention they receive. George is getting a lot of that from Toronto, and opening the floor up with players who can take advantage would be a prudent strategy. It’s why I think Miles should start at power forward.

*George, meanwhile, seems to think he should be getting more calls despite roughly doubling his regular season free-throw rate so far in the series. Carroll, a friend of his and his primary check, is content to let George keep talking about it.

Assorted
*Congratulations to Luis Scola, who has won the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award for the Atlantic Division. The award is given to the player who “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court with ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity.” Scola has always been a pleasure to deal with, as a thoughtful and insightful interview, and his impact on the locker room has been palpable from Day One. Around the league, nobody seems to have anything but the very best of things to say about the Argentine, and it’s nice to see him get this nod in recognition. Mike Conley won the league-wide award.

The line
Game 1: Raptors -6.5
Game 2: Raptors -7
Game 3: Raptors -1
Game 4: Raptors -1

The lines for all four games have stayed pretty much in agreement about how these two teams stack up. Today’s line opened as Raptors -1.5 and shifted a nudge toward the Pacers. I probably should pick the Pacers, considering I’ve written about how hard it is to win back-to-back road games in the postseason, but given how the last two games went, I think I’m kind of in a “show me” state with the Pacers figuring it out.

Raptors 94, Pacers 90

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