NBA Playoff Series Preview: (2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers

Kyle Lowry will have to hope his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan remains in Toronto.
Kyle Lowry will have to hope his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan remains in Toronto.

(2) TOR vs. (7) IND

Opening Game: Saturday, April 16 at 12:30 PM
Series Price: TOR -360; IND +295
Game One Spread: TOR -6.5
Game One Total: 194.5

Betting odds c/o Bookmaker

The Toronto Raptors finished the season 56-26, just one game behind the No. 1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors will face the No. 7 seeded Indiana Pacers and are listed as -360 favorites by NBA oddsmakers at Bookmaker. The series begins at 12:30 Eastern on ESPN.

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Toronto closed the season strong on a four-game winning streak with ‘W’s’ over the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors held a 3-1 edge in the season series against the Pacers, and Toronto will also be 6.5 point favorites in game 1 from the Air Canada Center.

Toronto’s star player DeMar DeRozan will be a free agent this summer, but a lot of indications seem to relate that he wants to stay in Toronto. DeRozan averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and four assists per game this season for the Raptors.

The L.A. Lakers are one of many teams expected to come hard for his services, but what he has going in Toronto may be worth seeing out. DeRozan pairs brilliantly with fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry averaged 21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game in a team-high 37 minutes per night. Lowry knocked down 2.8 threes per game at a 38.8 percent mark.

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The Raptors have some nice role players filling out the starting five: Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll are both superb defenders and Luis Scola is a veteran who knows how to win. Terrence Ross seems to have settled into being a major scorer off the bench, and the Raptors have strong defenders like Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo coming off the bench, too.

Toronto ranked No. 11 in defensive rating (105.2) and allowed just 98.2 points per game (3rd lowest in the NBA). The Raptors play a slow pace, ranking No. 29 in the NBA in pace, but that is suitable for the playoffs. It is just too hard to read too much into this given that last year Toronto was swept by the Washington Wizards in the first round.

The Pacers finished the season 45-37. Indiana ranks No. 8 in the NBA in scoring (100.5 points per game), while ranking No. 3 in the league in defensive rating, at 102.9. The Pacers do have a legitimate superstar in Paul George, and it may be that George and DeRozan cover one another straight-up in this series. George averaged 23.1 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game in 34.8 minutes a night. He shot 37.2 percent from three while attempting seven per game. He is battling an ankle injury but is expected to play in game one.

Monta Ellis is also a tested veteran and No. 2 scorer on the Pacers. He tallied 13.8 points, 4.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game this season, but is capable of turning it up to another level at times. The same applies to his backcourt mate George Hill, who averaged 4.2 three attempts per game while knocking down 40.8 percent from behind the arc. The Pacers hit 8.1 threes per game as a team while shooting 35.1 percent collectively. Indiana can light teams up from behind the arc, and the Pacers are a good group of shooters collectively.

Indiana will rely heavily on Myles Turner, who stepped up in the second half of the season after becoming a starter. The rookie averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while coming up with 1.43 blocks per contest, too. He is an effective big man, and it does not matter much whether he is a 4 or a 5. Turner has the tools to thrive on the block, but he mostly prefers to pop on pick and roll sets, displaying his soft touch from mid-range. Turner started 30 games this season as a rookie and could emerge as just another star in a very loaded rookie class.

The Pacers have a lot of talent, and this series is going to be perhaps a bit closer than the series prices might indicate. Even so, Toronto is a tough team and a contending team in the East. The Raptors have more depth and a better backcourt, notwithstanding that the Pacers have a couple of very dangerous scorers in its.

Bottom Line: Toronto in 6

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