The Toronto Raptors will play Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers, as they come back home with the series tied at 2.
The last time the Raptors played in the Air Canada Centre, they beat the Pacers to even their series. They’ll be looking for the same result, after losing Game 4 100-83 in Indiana, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will have to step up their efficiency, after starting the first four games shooting 30.7 per cent from the field.
Ian Mahinmi is listed as questionable for the Pacers, and will be further evaluated before tip-off at 6 p.m. EST,
Cage’s Keys to the Game
Get Valanciunas Involved
With Mahinmi suffering a from bad back, Jonas Valanciunas should be ready for a big night. The Pacers don’t have anyone that can stop Valanciunas’ offensive game, and not having Mahinmi’s big frame will make it tough for them to contain the 15 points and 13.5 rebounds he’s averaged this series.
The Raptors should feed Valanciunas the ball a lot more, no matter who’s in or out for the Pacers. In Game 4, he led the Raptors with 16 points, while taking the fifth most shots on the team with 7. Even Terrence Ross took more jumpers coming off the bench, which is ridiculous since he shot 2-9 from the field.
In games this season that Valanciunas has attempted 10 or more field goals, the Raptors are 14-7. Since he’s also shooting the best percentage of any Raptors starter, he deserves a bigger role on offence.
Limit Them to Under 90 Points
Limiting the Pacers to under 90 points should be the goal for the Raptors, since each time they’ve done so this series they’ve come away with a win.
The Raptors have a lot of guys that they can depend on for defence, with Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo, and Patrick Patterson all proving themselves at different points of the series. The Raptors should focus on putting the best defensive lineups with Lowry, who can take up the offensive load while contributing his fair share on defence, unlike DeRozan.
Playing defence and limiting easy points is also a lot easier for the Raptors when they’re not giving up turnovers. In the playoffs they’ve been averaging 15.8 turnovers a game, which is only worse than the Houston Rockets.
DON’T “Ride or Die with Demar and Kyle”
“We’re going to ride or die with DeMar and Kyle,” said Dwane Casey. “They haven’t shot the ball great but again it’s still basketball. So we’re going to go with them. They’re our star players. They’re all-stars for a reason and, as a coach and as a staff, we’re trying to put them in the best position to be successful.”
Dwane Casey is preparing to die by putting the ball in the hands or Lowry and DeRozan, since they’ve been the least efficient backcourt in the playoffs since their first appearance together in 2014. Since then, they’re the only two players in the NBA to average 15 shots a game, while shooting less than 37 per cent from the field.
The Raptors have other options in the backcourt they can use, such as Cory Joseph who’s been averaging 11 points on 61.5 per cent shooting. Joseph plays great alongside Lowry, and can replace DeRozan if he’s struggling to find his shot. He also has a lot of playoff experience, having played 17 more games than Lowry and 30 more than DeRozan.
X-Factor: Norman Powell
Norman Powell needs to play more if the Raptors want to increase their chances of controlling Paul George. He’s been great this series at defending George, that his offensive rating slides to 90.8 from 106.1 when the rookie is on the court defending him.
Game 2 was Powell’s best performance, when he did a great job of locking down George in his 22 minutes of action.
Besides playing defence, Powell has also been red hot from the 3-point line, connecting on 42.9 per cent of his attempts. With his excellent court awareness, Dwane Casey should take advantage of Powell’s presence on both ends of the floor.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97