Canadian Pacers impress in homecoming

Pacers win a regular season game in Toronto for the first time since March 2013

Starting on the Raptors side of things, this game was another blown opportunity.

Opinions have been split all season on whether Toronto should be gunning for a playoff spot in the first place. However that quest would be significantly easier if the Raptors catch the Hawks, resulting in one play-in win to make the postseason instead of two. This was a very winnable game, which would have resulted in Toronto and Atlanta being tied for eighth (but losing the tiebreaker) had the Raptors won. It’s a terrible time to get swept by Indiana in the season series.

Will Barton

With injuries to Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa, Will Barton got the nod for his first start as a Raptor. Theoretically, it’s a more natural fit for Barton to be playing two guard minutes as opposed to the backup point guard role Nick Nurse has had him in recently. Although he did slash for a couple of buckets, Barton has not been able to find his three point shot whatsoever in Toronto.

Those are simply open looks that have to be made. Barton went 0-5 from three, with the final attempt not even hitting the rim. He’s now shooting 19 percent (4-19) from deep as a Raptor. Over the last six seasons, Barton has shot under 35 percent from three only once.

Nick Nurse echoed postgame that Barton has been getting good looks and has to get his feet under him to knock some of them down. Nurse opted to go with Malachi Flynn instead down the stretch, who provided good minutes and made two threes. Jeff Dowtin Jr. also saw playing time, and now is eligible for six more games unless he is converted. It would have been nice to see Dowtin play more than six minutes.

Other Negatives

The Raptors were brutal at the rim in the first half, both in transition and half court sets. Toronto missed half its attempts (13-26) from point blank range.

Toronto also didn’t do a good job exploiting mismatches. Pascal Siakam had 25 second half points, but numerous possessions prior saw him being guarded by Andrew Nembhard or T.J. McConnell only for the ball to go somewhere else.

Meanwhile the Raptors had another head scratching defensive display, especially to begin the game. Indiana shot 75 percent from the field in the first quarter, and ended up just under 56. Nembhard especially went wherever he wanted, as Raptor defenders were a step slow on his drives. There were spurts of good defensive energy in the third quarter but overall the effort was far too inconsistent.

Toronto has owned the third worst point differential in the fourth quarter (-46) since February 10th. Technically, the Raptors won the fourth by one but similar issues revealed itself down the stretch.

“Canada on the Map”

The Pacers starting lineup featured a new first for Canadian basketball.

All three Canadians had an impact on this game. Bennedict Mathurin and Oshae Brissett’s best plays came via the spectacular route.

Meanwhile Nembhard ran the team with Tyrese Haliburton missing a sixth straight game. He looked nothing like a second round rookie, easily setting up Myles Turner and other teammates or calling his own number.

Nembhard’s step back dagger three with 30 seconds left was nasty.

The Aurora, Ontario native finished with 25 points and 10 assists with 200 family and friends in attendance for his first NBA homecoming.

Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher offered their takes on the Pacers Canadian trio, at the expense of the Raptors.

Up Next: Toronto will try to be the team doing the sweeping this time when Detroit rolls in on Friday.

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