Heading into their game on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers, the Toronto Raptors may feel surprisingly confident in their chances of winning at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Raptors beat the Pacers twice on the road last season and will look to rain on the Pacers’ parade as they go for a franchise record-tying sixth straight win to start the season.
For the Raptors to take down the Pacers and spoil what would probably be a pretty good party in the basketball-crazy state of Indiana, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is going to have to call an absolute quality game from the bench. That means allowing the likes of Jonas Valanciunas to be on the court when it matters most, something that Casey has failed at doing in a number of key moments of some eventual losses this season.
Figuring out a way to out-rebound an athletic team like the Pacers is also a must. Indiana doesn’t let much off the boards get away from them. The rebounding combination of Roy Hibbert and David West for the Pacers is something Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Rudy Gay are going to have to try and figure out tonight. The Pacers are absolute beasts in the paint both on and off the bench.
The Raptors could also use some big-time performances from Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustine as they visit their old stomping grounds for the first time since coming to the Raptors after last season. The two former Pacers could have the inside scoop on what it takes to shut down a dynamic player in Paul George. George is among the league leaders in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game so far in this young NBA season.
The Raptors have an opportunity to win their third trip to Indiana in a row, something that isn’t easy for any team to do. With big games from their usual suspects and some gritty play off the bench, the Raps could shut down the party in Indiana before it even happens.