The first round of the NBA Playoffs tips-off Saturday afternoon in the Eastern Conference. The No. 2 Seed Toronto Raptors host the No. 7 seed Indiana Pacers at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. According to CBS Sports, the Raptors are 6.5 favorite in Game 1 of the series.
Coming into the postseason, the Raptors earned the No. 2 seed with a (56-26) record. Despite the stellar season, the Raptors need playoff success immediately. They’ve struggled to get out of the first round in recent years, so there will be a heavy burden if they can’t get off to a good start.
The Raptors took the season series over the Pacers, 3-1. In the last three games, the Raptors handled the Pacers fairly well. However, they were no match for Indiana during their first match up. As the season series moved along, the Raptors offense became a lot better. In the loss, Toronto only shot 36.7 percent from the field. During the Raptors win last week, the offense scorched the Pacers at 54.4 percent shooting.
Meanwhile, the (45-37) Pacers 3-point shooting failed the team in the three losses. They shot 10 of 22 in the mid December match up. In 2 of the 3 losses, the Pacers were unable to shoot 30 percent from downtown, according Basketball-reference.com. The Pacers must be proficient from 3-point range to advance.
The Raptors are led by the dynamic duo in the backcourt. Kyle Lowry is second on the team at 21.2 points per game and leads the Raptors with 6.4 assists. Overall, Lowry is shooting 42.7 percent from the field. Their leading scorer is DeMar DeRozan. He averages 23.5 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting. These two players must produce every game. If not, the Raptors will have a hard time finding offense in the postseason.
For the Pacers, their game plan revolves around Paul George’s ability. After missing most of last season, George came back to lead the Pacers to the playoffs. At their best, the Pacers were an Eastern Conference finalist. With George in the fold, the Pacers should have what it takes to pull this upset. Despite a slight ankle injury, George will be ready to go in Game 1.
Playing in 81 games, George averaged 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He also accounted for almost two steals per game with the Pacers. George’s perimeter defense will key any potential Pacers’ playoff run.
Rookie Myles Turner has had an incredible impact for the Pacers. Now he is facing his first playoff test. Turner averages 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 23 minutes of action. Will the moment get too big for Turner? As long as Turner’s active, he should be a valuable contributor.
No. 7 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 2 Toronto Raptors
Where: Air Canada Center
When: 12:30 p.m. ET