The Pacers play the Raptors three times in the span of 15 days with the second matchup slated for Friday night in Toronto. Despite being well rested in their first meeting on Mar. 19, the Pacers had nothing for the Raps in a disappointing 116-91 loss.
This time around if the Pacers aren’t able to muster up some sense of urgency and desperation in their approach, they simply aren’t capable. After the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, the Pacers are only one game ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Heat own the tie breaker over the Pacers and the Bulls also have the tie breaker based on division record. Even if the Pacers win their final two Central Division games, the Bulls still have the advantage with the conference record. Worse, after getting past the Cavs, the Bulls final seven opponents are: Atlanta, @New Orleans, @NYK, @Philadelphia, @Brooklyn, Orlando, Brooklyn.
Yes, four are on the road, but certainly the easiest remaining schedule among the playoff chasers.
So, yeah, the Pacers have burned through their margin for error. Lance Stephenson may be joining the team on Sunday, but the stars on this team still need to lead and raise their level of play.
If they can’t do that tonight in Toronto and at least put themselves in position to beat the Raptors late in the game, then the Pacers will need more help than Lance to make it into the post-season. They will lose control of their own destiny and rely on other teams to falter instead.
The playoff race and return of Lance were topics on the latest Locked on Pacers podcast. Check it out.