Pacers want to prove they can play with Raptors
The Indiana Pacers have something to prove when they play the visiting Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
Despite winning 11 of their past 15 games, the Pacers have lost four in a row to top teams in the Eastern Conference. They are 3-7 against teams with a .600 or better winning percentage.
Even if the Pacers do win for the first time in three games this season against the Raptors, they will not have faced Toronto's best.
Toronto is resting Kawhi Leonard for the fourth straight game Wednesday, and OG Anunoby will miss his fifth game in a row for personal reasons.
The Raptors were without Leonard and Anunoby on Tuesday night, when they defeated the visiting Sacramento Kings 120-105. Guards Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry led the way with 19 points each, and also had seven and nine assists, respectively.
Leonard also did not play on Jan. 6, when the Raptors defeated the Pacers. The Raptors were playing the second game of a back-to-back set after defeating the Bucks in Milwaukee the previous night. This will be the final regular-season game between the teams this season. Toronto has won five straight overall against the Pacers and 11 in a row against them in Toronto.
The Pacers also have lost to the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers once each in the past month.
After a 120-96 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, Pacers forward Thaddeus Young had a message for his teammates.
"If we want to consider ourselves an elite team or one of those top-tier teams, it starts with beating them," Young said Tuesday after practice. "I told them, 'We don't beat them, then everyone is going to continue to look at us the same way they do now: not in that class. In order to be in that class, we have to beat those teams. And we haven't done it yet. Not lately.' "
Young scored 27 points in the game against Philadelphia.
Both of Indiana's losses to the Raptors have been in Toronto.
"They beat us twice, but we feel like we're right there," Pacers point guard Darren Collison said. "Eliminate some mistakes and we'll be OK. We match up pretty well against them. But if we want to be one of the best in the East, this shouldn't be a statement game. We should go out and compete and win. I feel like if you're the best, it shouldn't be a statement game. Statement games are for teams that are underdogs. I don't think we feel like underdogs."
Leonard has not played since he scored 33 points in a loss in Boston on Jan. 16. He did not play the second game of the back-to-back the next night, a win over the Phoenix Suns. He has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back set this season after a quadriceps injury limited him to nine game last season with the San Antonio Spurs.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game Tuesday that it was a good chance give him a rest but that he will play Friday when the Raptors visit the Houston Rockets.
"Well, first of all, it's a medical decision from our medical team," Nurse said. "And it's just a load management thing still. I think he's played what, 35, 36 games now after playing nine a year ago. It was just a chance to get him some extended rest. We're sitting him out this back-to-back and he's definitely gonna play Friday in Houston."
Nurse noted that the Raptors manage the workloads of all their players. "We'll continue to manage their load," he said. "That's half the reason we don't have practice some days and don't have shootaround some days. We're trying to rejuice and reenergize and kinda play the long game here a little bit."
The Raptors are 8-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.
The Raptors had another good game off the bench Tuesday from C.J. Miles, who had been struggling with his shot and a sore hip.
After scoring 13 points in each of his previous two games, Miles scored 15 points and had four 3-pointers.
"Three good games from C.J.," Nurse said. "It's awesome to be able to call him in there. It wasn't ideal conditions because they were playing big, but it's not ideal conditions for them at the other end either because their bigs are chasing him."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 23, 2019