The last regular season win by the Raptors in Toronto was against the Pacers way back on February 23rd, 2020. 607 days ago to be exact. Maybe this is a good omen?
Both teams come into this game with a 1-3 record, and will face each other twice this week. The Pacers host the second game on Saturday. Indy lost to Milwaukee on Tuesday 119-109, so this isn’t a back-to-back situation for either team. Some topics about this game below:
More clutch minutes? Sure why not
The first three Raptor games were not competitive one way or the other by the five minute mark of the fourth quarter, which is defined as clutch time within five points. We got our first taste of meaningful clutch basketball in a defiant comeback attempt on Monday vs the Bulls. Although DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine kept trading daggers, some sloppy Chicago turnovers (or scrappy Raptor defence, whichever way you want to describe it) brought everything down to Fred VanVleet missing a three that could have sent the game to overtime.
We all know the Raptors offence especially is a work in progress, especially in the half court. So nothing would be better than getting more late game execution reps, maybe this time trying to hold on to the lead instead of trying to make a comeback. That will only help Fred, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and company grow comfortable with what they can rely on late and expand on once Pascal Siakam makes his return.
Chris Boucher / Malachi Flynn
They are in the doghouse. Nick Nurse is back to his not-so-subtle callouts, saying “I don’t see any up” when asked about Boucher’s ups and downs on Saturday after the Mavs. He only saw five minutes of court time on Monday. Flynn has fallen to fourth on the point guard depth chart and was getting up extra shots immediately after the game. Only Nurse knows when they’ll see the court on a consistent basis again. Of course, a lot of that is up to Boucher and Flynn themselves.
The Pacers extended struggles
Yes the Pacers have lost three of four to begin the season, but their schedule so far has been Charlotte, Miami, Washington and Milwaukee. Those four have a combined 10-4 record. Also, Indy is missing its supposed starting wings in Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren. Rookie Chris Duarte has done a formidable job in LeVert’s place, averaging 19.8 ppg and shooting nearly 45 percent from three in four games. Let’s look big picture for a second though. The constant injury bug in Indiana makes one wonder, where is this team going?
Since Paul George’s gruesome leg injury and the Pacers ensuing fall from grace in 2014-15, they’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs five straight seasons. They were swept in three of those five seasons. Frank Vogel was fired. Nate McMillan was hired, fired, and is apparently living his best life in Atlanta. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have missed entire playoff runs. Then last year, Indiana gave up 142 points in a play-in loss to the Wizards. Basically the Pacers have been doggy paddling right in the middle of the standings for quite some time now. They reportedly have interest in a Ben Simmons deal once those negotiations with Daryl Morey come back down to earth.
The bright side is Rick Carlisle is back, and it may have been a mistake to fire him in the first place. Carlisle was an assistant coach during the Pacers best runs including a Reggie Miller led Finals appearance in 2000, and then the head coach in 2004 when Indiana went 61-21. That is still a franchise record. The Malice in the Palice destroyed that team and Carlisle was let go in 2007. He got the last laugh, winning a title with the Mavs in 2011. Carlisle has a proven knack of elevating teams to the next level, so that’s Indiana’s hope for his fresh 4-year, $29 million deal. If that falls flat? This team may have to start over.
Oshae Brissett’s return
Mississauga’s very own will play his first game in Toronto as an opponent of the Raptors. Oshae was a preseason cut last year after spending his rookie season in Toronto (miss the sideline dance energy by the way), but bounced back in a huge way. Brissett averaged 10.9 ppg with the Pacers last year including a career-high 31 points against Toronto on the final day of the regular season. The energy, athleticism and defence were always there, but his shooting has made a huge improvement. Brissett shot 30.7 percent from three over two seasons at Syracuse, then didn’t really take threes (3-for-15) in his rookie season in Toronto.
Up those numbers to 42.3 percent (33-78 in 21 games) last season and all of a sudden you have a reliable stretch four. Brissett even played some five last season for a depleted (cursed) Pacers roster. All in all, he earned himself a multi-year deal with a team option for next season. He’s played 55 minutes off the bench in the last two games, so its a safe bet we’ll see a lot of Oshae in this game.
Tip-off: 7:30pm EDT | TV: TSN 3/4 | Radio: Sportsnet 590
T.J. Warren has only played four games since his legendary run in the bubble back in 2020. He is dealing with a foot injury and his timetable to return is still unknown. Caris LeVert is questionable (back) to make his season debut. Kelan Martin (hamstring) didn’t play against Milwaukee, pending an update.
PG: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. McConnell, Brad Wanamaker, Duane Washington Jr.
SG: Chris Duarte, Jeremy Lamb
SF: Justin Holiday, Torrey Craig, DeJon Jarreau
PF: Domantas Sabonis, Oshae Brissett, Isaiah Jackson
C: Myles Turner, Goga Bitadze
Yuta Watanabe (calf) and Pascal Siakam (shoulder) are both still out, but they practiced on Tuesday with no restrictions. Both are expected to practice with the Raptors 905 on Wednesday.
PG: Fred Vanvleet, Goran Dragic, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr, Svi Mykhailiuk, David Johnson
SF: Scottie Barnes, Isaac Bonga, Sam Dekker, Justin Champagnie
PF: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher
C: Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch
Indiana is favoured by 1.5 points. The over/under is 218.5. The Pacers are top five in points per game, but the Raptors are only giving up 98.8 points. I’m 2-0 on this so once again, take the under.