So it all gets started for real tonight for the Toronto Raptors. Before I get to my preview for tonight we already had a pretty nice on the Pacers with Mike Wells from the Indy Star if you missed it yesterday. He is one of the better beat reporters in the NBA. Also, Candice did a fun piece on getting some new Raptor gear for the season. The video alone is worth checking out. There is also This Week in Raptorland where Josh and I preview the season along with an interview with Ed Davis. Just in case you been busy running around getting ready for Halloween and missed any of that stuff.
Now on the the season opener against the Pacers. Here is my 5 keys to tonight's game:
1. Jonas vs Hibbert: Roy Hibbert has become one of the better Centers in the East and in the NBA. He was part of a trade between these two teams once upon a time and has grown to be an All-Star Level talent. The Raptors hope that can be the case for Jonas Valanciunas and have a lot of faith in him to be putting him out there as a starter from day one. It should make for an interesting battling in the paint all night. It won't be a case on Jonas winning this match-up as much as holding his own and being able to stay on the floor.
2. How the Raptors Start this game: The one major concern for a lot of people coming off an impressive 6-1 pre-season was the starts to games by this team. They have been brutal for the most part. Now with Andrea Bargnani being out with the flu the last couple days that could be a concern. He is suppose to be this team's best option to score. If he is out or limited that will make the challenge of scoring points early even greater. It will also change the spacing on the floor significantly. Raptors need to ride the momentum of what is sure to be a large crowd and get off to a fast start. If they don't coming back on the Pacers will be a much larger challenge than anyone they faced in the pre-season.
3: DeRozan vs George: Mike Wells brought up this one yesterday and think it is a good one. DeRozan has a lot to prove and at time I am writing this no contract extension. Paul George has a lot to prove with Pacers as well. Some see him as the guy that will take over once they are able to part ways with Danny Granger. These two know each other well and it will be a tough match-up for DeMar given the size and length of George.
4. Lowry vs Hill: This is a good point guard battle and one the Raptors need to win. Kyle Lowry will be counted on to do that. To point guards with good to great speed. Should be fun watching these guys match-up with each other. Both Pacers and Raptors now have capable back-up options with D.J Augustin and Jose Calderon should either point guard fail to perform.
5 Who Bomb's Best Wins? The Raptors have improved their 3-point shooting on this roster if they can gain an advantage from behind the arch that could help. They also must defend that line as well and do a solid job in that regard.
So that is my take. Not that I want it to happen but I would say the Pacers will win this game 98-89 making a statement for them they are ready to challenge Miami and the best the East has to offer. I hope that I am wrong of course. To all of you heading to the game including Jerrica our Community Manager and Candice our former member Raptors' Dance Pak, enjoy yourself.
Have a happy and safe Halloween and make sure you check for the kids be you going to the game or just out for the night. I will be watching this one from home and have a re-cap for you tonight. Also will have a morning after piece in the Bleacher Reporter on Thursday.