Tonight is the season opener, & the Raps must battle one of the East’s strongest contenders, the Indiana Pacers. This squad, patiently rebuilt over several years by some guy named Larry Bird, is talented & playoff-toughened, having last season knocked off Orlando before bowing in 6 to the HEAT in the Eastern semis.
The Pacers’ offense is normally led by Mr. Volume Shooter himself, Danny Granger. However, Danny is hobbled by a bum left knee & won’t play, which is a huge break for the Raps. The Pacers aren’t out of bullets though. Roy Hibbert is their borderline-All Star Centre, who will contest every shot in the paint, & every rebound. He’s big in all ways, & talented enough to back down & score against any C on the planet. Third-year swingman Paul George is expected to be their break-out player this season, after starting every game last year & averaging 12.1 PPG with quality percentages. David West is a sturdy & consistent Power Forward. I could go on: George Hill keeps improving, D.J. Augustin I’ve always liked, PF Tyler Hansbrough is nasty – the Pacers are deep.
What to watch for:
- I’ve staked my credibility on the Raps’ depth; let’s see if Coach Casey agrees. I hope we’ll see 10 players get significant burn, & no one plays more than 32 minutes.
- Can the Raps end the first Quarter no worse than tied, or will they continue their pattern of sleep-walking early?
- Can Jonas Valanciunas stay clear of the Curse of the Euro-Rookie, a.k.a. foul trouble? And if he can’t, can Aaron Gray stop Hibbert? If so, will Aaron get more points than fouls?
- Under what circumstances, if any, will we see Terrence Ross?
- Linas Kleiza’s pre-season was mediocre, & that’s being kind. Will he be pasted to the bench during a game in which his capability for guarding the Pacers’ dangerous swingmen might actually be useful, or has his woeful shooting sapped Coach’s confidence?
- Bargnani started off last season like an All-Star. Can he light it up again?
- Which Landry Fields will show up, the rookie toast of the Big Apple of 2 seasons ago, or the disgruntled poor-shooting Knick of last year?
- Are our injured players (DeRozan, Calderon, Lucas) out of Sick Bay & capable of contributing?
You know I would have picked the Raps to win this game, even if Granger were playing. After all, it’s the home opener, there will be much hoopla & free T-Shirts – only a curmudgeon would call for a Pacers victory. With Granger out, I’m quite comfortable saying the Raps start the season right with a 103-99 victory.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.