First and foremost… happy new year!!
After a thrilling win against the Pheonix Suns, the Toronto Raptors will play their first game of the new year against the Pacers in Indiana.
Before the win against the Suns, the Raptors lost frustrating back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Gary Trent Jr’s dropping a season-high in points led the Raptors to close out the new year with a win.
The Raptors will look to start off the new year with a win against the Pacers.
Raptors: In the absence of Fred VanVleet, Trent Jr scored a season-high of 35 points to carry the Raptors to a win.
Trent missed four games in a row due to a quadriceps injury before returning against the Cavaliers, dropping 8 points on a solid 3-6 shooting and two threes made. Afterward, for two games in a row, he played 30+ minutes and dropped 20 points in each game. In his 4th game back, he scored 35 points on an efficient 11-22 shooting and made four threes.
I was amazed at Trent Jr’s defensive awareness in this game. He even had a block on Deandre Ayton in the paint midway through the second. He had a splendid two-way performance, ending the night with 35 points, 3 steals, and a block.
It is a great sign to see Trent Jr hoop when he’s fully healthy.
Pascal Siakam continued his stellar run of scoring 25+ points for the seventh game in a row. After Trent Jr, he led the Raptors with 26 points and had 6 assists to go along with it. Siakam’s performance will be a crucial indicator of whether the Raptors will win or not.
O.G. Anunoby has started a streak of his own where he has scored 15+ points in the last five games. Anunoby has also been shooting it well from three in the past few games which is something the Raptors are lacking right now.
A new year could be a new start for Scottie Barnes tonight in Indiana. At times he’s been struggling to find his game but when he’s found it, he is unbeatable. Treasure the good moments (winning ROTY), leave behind the bad ones, and find your game.
Pacers: If you ask any basketball fan for their top 6 teams in the east predictions by the end of 2022, none of them would have stated the Pacers.
The man who is behind the Pacers success is Tyrese Haliburton, who has been on a tear. He’s shown flashes of his ability last year after being traded to the Pacers, however, his talent is now on full display in his first season at Indiana. He is leading the league in assists per game while scoring an average of 20 per night. If you want to beat the Pacers, you have to stop Haliburton.
The Pacers also have the Canadian rookie sensation, Bennedict Mathurin who is in running for Sixth man of the year as a rookie! Mathurin is averaging 17 points off the bench.
Other players to look out for include Myles Turner who dropped 34 the other night against the Clippers, Buddy Hield, and Aaron Nesmith. There are also the Canadians Chris Duarte and Andrew Nembhard who have had their moments.
Tip-Off: 7:00pm EDT | TV: SN1, SNE, SNO
Daniel Theis (knee) is out indefinitely after having surgery.
PG: Tyrese Haliburton, T.J. McConnell
SG: Andrew Nembhard, Bennedict Mathurin, Chris Duarte
SF: Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith, Terry Taylor
PF: Jalen Smith, Isaiah Jackson, Oshae Brissett, James Johnson
C: Myles Turner, Goga Bitadze
Fred VanVleet (back) and Precious Achuiwa (ankle) are both questionable. Otto Porter Jr. (toe) remains out. Dalano Banton and Ron Harper Jr. are with the G-League.
*Time to take my wild guess at a lineup, if Fred is available.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Jeff Dowtin Jr.
SG: Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr.
SF: O.G. Anunoby, Juancho Hernangomez
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young
C: Khem Birch, Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko
Upcoming Regular Season Schedule
Bucks @ Raptors, Jan 4
Knicks @ Raptors, Jan 6