The Indiana Pacers have a new look this season and, unlike 2014, they are entering the year healthy, potentially giving them nice underdog value ATS visiting the Toronto Raptors.
The road underdogs with a new style could hold value north of the border Wednesday night when the Indiana Pacers, who are healthy entering this season unlike the injury-depleted squad of last year, pay a visit to the two-time defending Atlantic Division Champion Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON Canada at 7:35 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Indiana.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Indiana as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5½ with odds of -108.
Almost Made Playoffs Anyway
The Indiana lineup represented a D-League team at the start of last season, but the Pacers slowly but surely started getting their stars back throughout the year and they made a late playoff push. In fact, they would have qualified for the post-season if not for a road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies to end the regular season. The Pacers should get off to a much stronger start with a full roster this season however.
The Raptors meanwhile won the Atlantic Division for the second straight year while setting a franchise record for wins in a season with their 49-33 mark, but unfortunately they were also the losing NBA picks in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, this time getting swept away in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards.
Faster Pace This Year?
The Pacers may be healthy this year, but they will have key new personnel and a brand new style. Remember that Indiana reached the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons in the two years prior to last year, doing so with stiff defense and by slowing the pace offensively. However, Indiana said goodbye to starters Roy Hibbert and David West, both defensive stalwarts, this off-season and they are introducing an up-tempo attack this year.
To that end, they have gone small by moving versatile All-Star Paul George to the power forward spot and they brought in a scorer in guard Monta Ellis, who has prospered best when playing a running style. But according to Coach Frank Vogel, the key for Indiana this year will be upgrading the scoring without sacrificing much on the defensive end, and if the Pacers can achieve that balance, they may once again rise to the elite level of a weak Eastern Conference.
The new look for Indiana worked fine during the preseason with the Pacers going 5-2 and averaging 102.4 points per game, and George seemed comfortable despite usually being matched up with bigger stronger forwards while averaging 18.7 points per game. That could provide matchup problems for Toronto this opening night, and it will be interesting to see if the Raptors elect to slide their big signee DeMarre Carroll over to the power forward spot to defend George.
Carroll Helps Defense
The Raptors are heavy -200 favorites to three-peat as Atlantic Champions, but they hope to do so with improved defense after having no trouble scoring points in recent seasons, making them the polar opposite of the Pacers, who are trying to go in the opposite direction by scoring more points after not having trouble making stops in recent years.
To that end, the Raptors signed a shutdown defender in Carroll away from the Atlanta Hawks, and they also added a couple of other nice defenders in Cory Joseph and Bismack Biyombo. With that said, while Carroll is certainly a supreme defensive player, the Toronto frontcourt does not look as prolific offensively with him in the lineup, meaning the scoring load might be left entirely to the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Sure that duo should score its share of points as usual, but if the Pacers can bring their preseason play with them into the regular year, they should be able to at the very least take this game down to the wire.
Triple Revenge in Mind
Finally, the Pacers may have triple revenge in back of their collective minds after the Raptors swept the season series last year with all of the Toronto wins being by double-digits, winning here in Canada by 12 points and the two meetings in Indianapolis by 13 and 19 points respectively. That would make a win here in Toronto extra sweet for Indiana.
And the Pacers seem capable of getting that revenge with their current make-up, although we are going the more conservative route and recommending taking the points with Indiana visiting Toronto as each team opens up its 2015-16 season on Wednesday.
NBA Pick: Pacers +5½ (-108)