It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the Toronto Raptors are back in the playoffs. Even with the second seed, the Raptors are using whatever fuel they can get to help propel them past the Indiana Pacers into the second round. For a more detailed analysis on what to expect from the series check out our Raptors vs. Pacers series preview article.
The Raptors have been playing it strategically over the last few weeks by resting players in hopes of keeping them fresh for this very moment. Well the time has come for the Raptors to reap the benefits of the grind. The Raptors can throw away those 82 games because the new season starts now. Everything they’ve worked for…is for right now. Take the moment, embrace it. This is where legends are made. Lets go Raptors!
Cage’s keys to game 1:
Kickin’ it old school
The Raptors need to play 90s ball against the Pacers to match their physicality and intensity. This means hitting players when they run through the paint. This also means feeding the ball to Jonas Valanciunas and getting him established early. The Raptors need to work the ball inside out because the Pacers are going to try and get Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan out of the game early. Don’t expect this to be a pretty one, Frank Vogel run teams are no strangers to grinding it out and getting the ugly win. If the Raptors get soft and start looking to the refs, this series could get out of hand before we know it.
The Toronto Raptors as an organization have never won a 7-game playoff series. Not too long ago, the Indiana Pacers were frequent visitors to the Eastern Conference finals. That being said, the Pacers have players who know how to win in the post-season. The crowd is sure to be insane as always so the Raptors can’t let game 1 jitters or nerves impact their game. If the Raptors don’t suddenly revert to hero-ball under pressure and play how they’ve played all season – the Raptors should be fine.
Don’t sleep on PG-13
The Pacers have a player in Paul George that can legitimately change the series single-handedly. George had a terrific bounce back season after his gruesome injury and has probably longed for the playoffs for some time now. He’s had the best season of his career, playing less minutes than he did for those Indiana teams who made deep playoff runs. George is nursing an ankle injury but should be good to go come tip-off. Lets hope DeMarre Carroll is ready to ball today because this is the type of matchup the Raptors signed him for.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
This is a make or break series for Terrence Ross. Forget about what he did in the regular season. Forget about his love affair with Amber Rose. If Ross doesn’t step it up in this series…he’s done. Ross can’t have another playoff series where he completely regresses – he just cant. Not after how he’s performed in the playoffs these last two seasons. Ross is the only player with athleticism on par to Paul George so he needs to step up to the challenge and provide consistent defence when called upon.