Toronto Raptors (16-16) at Indiana Pacers (27-6): 3 keys to new win streak

The Toronto Raptors enjoy(?) their second straight opportunity to challenge an NBA lion in its lair. Since the Raps beat the Pacers in Toronto last week, Indiana has won twice, so they certainly haven’t lost the edge which has propelled them to the league’s best record. The Raps will need all their new-found confidence, and some tough defense, to emerge victorious.

Jan 5, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I rattled off the capabilities of Indiana’s starters last week, so I won’t repeat them now. Suffice it to say the Pacers are finding ways to prevail even when their offense struggles. They managed only 82 points in Cleveland last night, and shot their worst percentage of the season, yet gutted out a win on defense. Indiana defends its home floor, almost beyond belief – they have lost one of 17 games, oddly enough to the Detroit Pistons, the Raps’ opponent tomorrow night. Their second unit has been bolstered by the return of Danny Granger from serious injury. Few teams could afford the loss of such a consistent scorer for such a long time, but the Pacers have thrived. Granger appears to be comfortable off the bench, and can certainly shred other teams’ lesser defenders. I wouldn’t want the guy on the Raps, as he’s Rudy Gay-lite in my eyes, but there’s no doubt he can fill up a scoresheet. Luis Scola will hit the boards, and the Raps if they’re in the way, with vigor. Like Toronto, Indiana has not been slowed by injuries to its impressive rotation this season.

Toronto can upset these guys again, if they:

  • don’t let Paul George breath. This man is the key to their offense. Terrence Ross held him to 12 points, and without a 3-ball, at the Air Canada Centre. Can our sophomore swingman do it again?
  • challenge Roy Hibbert in the paint. This is a tall (yuk, yuk) order, but getting their giant centre in foul difficulty was critical to the Raps’ victory. He’s going to swat some shots away, but that’s the price of admission.
  • get some offense from our second unit – please! The Pacers’ bench outscored the Raps 31-19, and we aren’t likely to survive such a margin a second time. Both Greivis Vasquez and John Salmons need to make some outside shots.

The Raps have lost their last 2 fourth quarters. If they are going to defeat this powerhouse squad again, that can’t continue. I don’t think the Raps can out-muscle this team twice in a row, so in a roughneck game, the Pacers prevail 92-88.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor 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.

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