The long wait is finally over; the Toronto Raptors are back in action tonight, after a suffering and damaging loss to the Washington Wizards last year in the playoffs. The Raptors (0-0) open up the season against the Indiana Pacers (0-0) who will be with their superstar wing player, Paul George.
Toronto added a handful of new faces to the roster, with the likes of DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola, and the Canuck, Cory Joseph. Tonight will be the first of 82 challenges, and with the gruelling schedule coming up, it’ll be important to capitalize on a lowly Pacers that lost its leaders during the off-season.
The Pacers have added some faces, like rookie Myles Turner, and Monta Ellis, however, they’ve lost the big men duo of David West and Roy Hibbert to free agency, which is an automatic downgrade for them on both ends of the court.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
No Hibbert, no West, but yes Valanciunas. JV has shown some solid improvement on both ends of the floor during the pre-season, and with no elite bigs on the opposition tonight, it’ll be a good confidence game. Early on, look for Valanciunas in the pick-&-roll, and with his back-to-the-basket. He’ll see a young kid in Turner, and Ian Mahinmi, who is athletic but lacks the prowess and skill of the previous big men. Valanciunas should have his way in the paint, especially with Paul George likely starting the four.
2. Limit Penetration
The perimeter defenders will have a hard time tonight, with Ellis, George, Rodney Stuckey. There will be a lot of quickness on the outside, meaning DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Joseph and Carroll will have the biggest assignments defensively. The mentioned Pacer names are all very capable of getting to the rim, and are lethal in the open court. Stop ball, and if anything, prevent them from even getting it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of heavy lifting on JV’s shoulders to protect the paint.
3. Stay the Course
Opening night, and there are always jumping nerves, jitters, and butterflies in the stomach. There are so many occurring activities on opening night, which sometimes leads to distractions. The Raptors have proven in the last couple years to come out slowly on opening night; its got to be different now, otherwise the Pacers are running them out of the ACC.
DeMarre Carroll was the biggest acquisition for the Raptors in the past off-season, and tonight he’ll have a challenge to prove his abilities; defending Paul George, and opening up the floor for the all-star back-court. He hopes to impact the team with his leadership, energy, communication, and his mindset. Tonight, it’ll be Carroll’s first of 82 games to prove it.