The Pacers caught a break on their second off day at home on Tuesday when reports surfaced that Kawhi Leonard was not playing in the Raptors’ game against the Kings and would also sit out the team’s road game against the Pacers on Wednesday.
While the Pacers need a win against the Raptors to keep chase in the East, it won’t be easy just because Kawhi is missing as evidenced by the Pacers last trip to Toronto where they were blown out by the Raps’ depth with Kawhi watching in street clothes. In fact, Toronto is 11-2 in games played without Leonard this season.
For the Pacers, both losses in Toronto were equally frustrating in different ways. The 121-105 loss referenced above saw the Pacers run out of gas in a game that started as a shootout. Without Kawhi the Raptors had plenty of firepower left and got a boost from Norman Powell off the bench who scored a season-high 23 to essentially fill the gap left by Leonard.
The Pacers defense was MIA throughout the 48 minutes which were played without their defensive anchor, Myles Turner. The defense should be much better this time around with Turner back in the mix patrolling the paint.
The first loss was more discouraging just because the effort was far better and a solid road win appeared there for the taking when the Pacers took a 10-point lead to the fourth quarter. But this time, Kawhi was involved and made his presence felt as the best player in the gym. The Pacers wilted under pressure late, scoring just 11 points in the fourth quarter and dropping the game, 99-96.
Now the Pacers play their final regular season game against the Raptors on their home floor with the hopes they will meet again some time after the first round of the playoffs.
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