Indiana Pacers (53-23) at Toronto Raptors (43-32)
Location: Air Canada Centre — Toronto, ON
Tip: 7:00 p.m. ET
Television: Fox Sports Indiana
In dire need of building the slightest momentum, the Indiana Pacers cross the northern border of the United States to take on the Toronto Raptors Friday evening at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto, currently battling Chicago and Brooklyn for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, has surged up the ranks since January. They currently stand 11 games over .500 and are headed toward the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Raptors have not won a playoff series since 2001.
However, under head coach Dwayne Casey, Toronto has caught fire in 2014. The team traded away Rudy Gay to allow more opportunities for the talented trio of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Terrence Ross.
Together, the three have led the Raptors into playoff contention. Not only that, they’re dangerous because of their scoring capabilities and the fact that they’re hot at the right time.
For Indiana, Friday’s game is about building some momentum and playing with confidence. It obviously starts on defense, a style of play in which the team has been built upon. But also of note, the Pacers must find different ways to score the basketball.
More crisp passing will help the cause, as will taking quality shots. The Pacers have been in an offensive funks for a long, long time, but at some point any team can explode offensively. Indiana played much more effectively in Wednesday’s win over Detroit, turning the ball over just 10 times, so there is hope that a turnaround may be on the horizon.
Watch for head coach Frank Vogel to urge Lance Stephenson to push the ball more. Getting out in transition leads to easy baskets, and that is certainly something the Indiana Pacers need to see.
Prediction: This one could go any direction. Toronto is currently a tough out in the Eastern Conference, as they play hard and with lots of confidence. Indy might be sluggish again on the road, or surprise us with a calm victory. With the Pacers’ road woes of late, I give this one to the Raptors, 102-93.