The Toronto Raptors (17-32) are trying to get back on the right track with a game against the Indiana Pacers (31-19) tonight. The Raptors are coming off yet another disappointing fourth quarter meltdown at the hands of the Boston Celtics, where the Raptors lead by ten to start the final quarter of regulation. The Raptors are currently sliding fast in the Eastern Conference playoff picture sitting 8.5 games out of the final spot. If the Raptors plan to make a push, they should consider to try and stop the bleeding first.
The Cage’s 5 Key’s to the game
1. Weather the Storm
The Indiana Pacers are one of the NBA’s best teams at home. Early in the season the Raptors had some close matchups against the Pacers, however they have become a much more cohesive unit since then. The Pacers have not lost a game at the Bankers Life Field House in two months; expect the crowd to play the real 6th man for Indiana.
2. Momma, There Goes That Man!
The Indiana Pacers have themselves another All-Star this season, and his name is not Danny Granger or Roy Hibbert. The new star of the Pacers is their versatile wing Paul George. George will likely be Gay’s assignment for a majority of the night. The Raptors have enough bodies at the wing position to throw at him to wear him down over the course of the game. Last time out George only had 12 points shooting just under 22% against the Raptors. Look for him to bounce back in a big way.
3. On to the Next One
The Raptors lost a tough one at home to the Celtics the other night. They’ve had a couple days of rest, which means the Raptors have been able to go over some things and get Rudy Gay better situated into the flow of things. The Raptors can’t let the result of their last game affect their level of play this evening.
4. Lock-Down Defence
The Pacers are one of the worst shooting teams in the entire NBA, and the Raptors on occasion have the potential to commit to the defensive end of the court. The Pacers have threats on offence that need easy buckets to get their confidence going. By frustrating key role players like Lance Stephenson and Gerald Green, the Raptors should be able to pull out another win on the road in Indiana this season. Out of the 3 losses they have at home this year, one of those came at the hands of the Raptors
5. Something…Anything Off the Bench!
The last few games since the Rudy Gay trade has really seen our overall team depth take a hit. The lack of stability and inconsistency from John Lucas, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross really hurts the Raptors if they plan on clawing their way back into NBA relevance. Over the last two games these players have combined for 16 total points; unacceptable.
Tonight’s X-Factor is Raptors coach Dwane Casey. The last few games Casey has been working with a new ball club, trying to work Rudy Gay into the line-up alongside Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani. New rotations have lead to unpredictable minute distribution among Raptors. His late game substitutions and his overusage of his new toy, Rudy Gay is what lead to the Raptors demise last game. Let’s see if he get’s it right tonight, no more excuses.
Photo Cred: Andy Lyons