By: Josh Weinstein
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The Toronto Raptors (11-7) troubling first and third quarter starts proved too insurmountable to overcome as the team dropped their second consecutive game, this time 107-104 to the Indiana Pacers (11-8). The win extended the Pacers winning streak to five.
Kyle Lowry played yet another sensational game in Indiana, but it wasn’t enough to help the Raptors claw back and complete a comeback. He finished with 24 points, 10 boards and 8 assists in 40 minutes of action, while also adding three steals. He’s quite small for NBA standards at 6’0” tall, which makes Lowry grabbing 10 rebounds and laying his body out on the line the way he did last night that much more incredible. Unfortunately, Lowry’s effort went to waste in a losing cause.
After a passive second half in New York, DeMar DeRozan was looking to put forth a strong bounce-back performance against the Pacers. He may have been forcing things a bit too much, though, as DeRozan shot a disappointing 6/16 from the field and finished with 13 points. That’s his third-lowest point total of the season and fourth time finishing with less than 20 points in a game. Considering how much the Raptors rely on DeRozan offensively, he can’t afford to have games where he's clearly outplayed by his matchup.
Well, the Pacers game is in the past. The only thing to do now is look ahead to the second night of the Raptors back-to-back in Atlanta.
If there was ever a game Toronto should win rather easily, it’s this one. Aside from the Chicago Bulls, this Hawks team (4-15) is the least talented roster in the Association the Raptors will have faced at this point of the season. The team’s offensive and defensive ratings both rank in the bottom-third of the league, which should provide Toronto a great opportunity to refocus and get back to winning ways. There is absolutely no reason the Raptors should head back home after tonight riding a three-game losing streak, especially since the Hawks are also on the second night of a back-to-back.
For the Raptors, it all comes down to buckling down and playing this game with urgency from the get-go. Dwane Casey’s squad can’t afford to have prolonged mental lapses, which have plagued them repeatedly in recent games.
Toronto has proven they are fully capable of executing a strong game plan on both ends when engaged. For inexplicable reasons, though, the team tends to check out for stretches, which their opponents take full advantage of. As long as the Raptors stay fully engaged for 48 minutes, they’ll be fine in Atlanta.
Something to also keep an eye out for is Jonas Valanciunas. The Lithuanian had a night forget in Indiana. He finished with a minus-20 and looked quite lost defensively. He's got to respond with a vengeance tonight, especially against a Hawks team that doesn't have much front court depth.
C.J. Miles is expected to miss tonight’s game as he continues to spend time with family after the birth of his daughter. Tip-off is at 7:30 PM ET.
Projected starting lineups:
- PG Kyle Lowry
- SG DeMar DeRozan
- SF OG Anunoby
- PF Serge Ibaka
- C Jonas Valanciunas
- PG Dennis Schroder
- SG Kent Bazemore
- SF Taurean Prince
- PF John Collins – Luke Babbitt appears to be a game-time decision.
- C Dewayne Dedmon