Finally. Damn, did two days ever feel like an eternity? That probably wouldn’t have been the case following a Game 4 victory, but the Toronto Raptors dropped the last one, evening the series at 2-2. As a result, the series is down to a best two-of-three, with the Raptors holding home court. The Indiana Pacers visit for a strange 6 p.m. tip-off at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, with the game found on TNT (U.S.), Sportsnet (Canada), and TSN 1050 (Canadian radio).
Here’s what you need ahead of Game 5, assuming you haven’t been keeping up.
*Tamberlyn’s Game 5 preview is as thorough as always.
*The Raptors are staying level after their Game 4 loss. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan know they need to be better, and the team will ride or die with them.
*The team is focusing on getting out to a hot start. They could do themselves a major favor by starting Patrick Patterson.
The big question is whether head coach Dwane Casey finally pulls the trigger on a change at power forward. My guess is yes. While he’s stuck with Luis Scola this long, the season and possibly his job is on the line, and it’s an obvious adjustment to make. Now, whether he makes the right call and starts Patterson or opts for Jason Thompson in order to keep his rotations the same is unclear, but I wouldn’t be going with a half-measure. Start Patterson.
The other question that flows from the first is what happens to the bench unit, including the roles of T.J. Ross and Norman Powell, who could either be fighting for the 9th-man role, splitting that role in a 10-man rotation, or find themselves in the 8th- and 9th-man roles if Patterson starts and the Raptors go with a small bench.
UPDATE: Patterson starts. This is the right decision, as discussed at length here today. It’s a risk, to be sure, but a necessary one (and one they could have mitigated some by making the change earlier in the year, but I get the loyalty to Scola until it was no longer tenable, even if I don’t agree with the strategy).
Patterson makes his 1st start since Oct. 12 (4th pre-season game). Last time he started in a game that counts: Feb. 27, 2015 (14 months ago)
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 26, 2016
Assuming Lucas Noguiera and Bruno Caboclo draw inactive again, 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: Patrick Patterson,Luis Scola, (Jason Thompson)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo
I’ve long thought this to be the team’s best lineup (save for maybe the one with Joseph in for a power forward in a smaller look), and starting them makes plenty of sense. I know some disagree, but I’m confident that this is the best approach, tough as it may be to do to Scola.
Old Raptors starting lineup in the playoffs: -8.5 net rating in 35 mins
New starting lineup in the playoffs: +31.1 net rating in 16 mins
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) April 26, 2016
The Pacers seem unlikely to tweak much coming off of a pretty convincing victory. Even if they sniff out Patterson starting, they don’t have a great counter – C.J. Miles or Solomon Hill could start at the four, but Myles Turner was pretty good, and Patterson can handle combo-forwards, as he and Carroll could switch the three-four with Paul George and whoever with some degree of comfort. Anyway, if it ain’t broke, they might not look to fix it.
Ian Mahinmi, by the way, is “still a little sore, but he’s good to go,” per Frank Vogel. He’s been avoiding contact in practice due to his back injury but isn’t limited in Game 5.
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)
*So, uhh, yeah, this is a big one. It has the potential to swing the series in a major way – if the Raptors win Game 5, the historical odds of them winning the series improve to 92.1 percent for the series, but they drop to 27.5 percent if they lose – and everyone seems keenly aware of that on both sides.
PG on Game 5: “This is what it’s about right here. This is where you expect your biggest game. This is where you expect to play the best.”
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) April 26, 2016
For the Raptors, that means getting out to a much better start than in Game 4.
“Very important,” Casey said of the need to start strong. “I think that’s something that’s always important no matter what game it is, but especially after coming off a game the way we started last time, it’s very important. That’s been the emphasis the last couple of days.
“I thought we got hit upside the head before we got started the other day…in more ways than one.” (That’s a coy reference to the George non-flagrant on Valanciunas, if it wasn’t clear.)
*There’s been continued talk about finding a way to get Valanciunas back to making a major impact. Casey said it’s on Valanciunas to get deeper post position, as he’s done down the stretch and in the first few games of the year but didn’t do last game. That’s something they want to emphasize, and from there, they can ask Valanciunas to do a little more than just score.
“And second out of that, he can quarterback, he’s one of our best passers” Casey said. “We trust him with the ball down there.”
It hasn’t always looked that way, so it will be interesting to see
*“Who said it’s going to be different? I don’t know…I’m always one that doesn’t like to break up the second unit at any time, so,” Casey trailed off, smiling, when asked about a tweak to the starting lineup. So, yeah, we’re not finding out until tip-off.
*On the chess match between coaches, Vogel acknowledged it but pushed the onus on to the players at the end of the day, which makes sense. “I think the bigger element in deciding these final three games is gonna be the players’ competitive spirit,” Vogel said.
*Vogel also pointed out that the issue with going tighter than a nine-man rotation is freshness in the fourth quarter if guys are overworked. That’s probably something Casey would echo, if asked, as both teams pretty set at nine (or even 10 in Toronto’s case).
*I’ve heard cool things about Drake’s Sher Club at the ACC.
I don’t have much else for the “assorted” section, but I’ll rehash two from the shootaround notes:
*Dwane Casey finished fifth in Coach of the Year voting. He earned six first-place votes, 12 second-place votes, and 17 third-place votes, finishing behind Kerr, Terry Stotts, Gregg Popovich, and Steve Clifford. He joins Kyle Lowry (MIP, DPOY) and Patrick Patterson (6Man) on ballots before him, though those players each received just a single third-place vote.
I personally had Casey fourth on my unofficial ballot, but it’s hard to argue with Clifford edging him. He’s done a great job this season, and really over the last three, although all that will be quickly forgotten if Game 5 goes poorly.
*Weird shirt alert!
A photo posted by Blake Murphy (@eblakemurphy) on
Game 1: Raptors -6.5
Game 2: Raptors -7
Game 3: Raptors -1
Game 4: Raptors -1
Game 5: Raptors -7
The lines have been remarkably consistent in evaluating the gap between these two teams, essentially setting the same line, when controlling for home court, each time. Considering how all four games have been, uhh, not close, it’s pretty hard to peg down. I’m guess it’s the first close game of the series, though. There’s too much on the line for both sides not to come out strong.
Raptors 100, Pacers 95