The Indiana Pacers take on the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Most ESPN writers and analysts have picked the Raptors winning the series.
The Indiana Pacers will face the second-best team in the Eastern Conference that is the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. Earlier Friday morning, 21 ESPN writers got together and made their picks for the Pacers’ bout against the Raptors.
Out of the 21 writers, only one has the Pacers advancing to the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Ethan Sherwood Strauss has the Pacers upsetting the Raptors in six games, giving Toronto its third-straight first round exit.
Amongst some of the staff who predict the Raptors to win the series includes J.A. Adande (six games), Chris Broussard (six games), Marc Stein (six games) and Mike Wells (five games). Five of the 21 have the series going to seven games and none have the series being decided in four games.
For the Raptors, they will have a great deal of pressure behind this series due in part to the fact that despite having a top-10 roster and making the playoffs for the third consecutive year. They have a history of collapsing in the postseason after dominating throughout the stretch of the regular season.
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Recall at the start of the 2015 NBA Playoffs when the fourth-seeded Raptors were taking on the fifth-seed Washington Wizards. The Raptors were favored to win the series, but shocked many when they were beat in four games at the hands of the Wizards. Toronto lead the season series that year against the Wizards, winning all three of the regular season match-ups during the 2014-15 season.
Out of the four games that the Pacers played against the Raptors this season, Indiana only won one of the four games. However, if there is anything that last year’s series between the Raptors and Wizards taught anyone, it’s that regular season games do not always translate to playoff success against the same team.
If the Pacers will want a chance at a first-round upset over the Raptors, a big part of finding success will have to come from the Pacers limiting the Raptor’s trips to the free throw line. The Raptors rank third-overall in the NBA in free throw attempts, averaging 26.7 attempts per game.
The Pacers are facing a team that includes the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, two players who were NBA All-Stars this season. Look for Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to have Paul George guarding DeRozan throughout the series in an attempt to limit some of Toronto’s scoring.
While the Pacers have been wildly inconsistent throughout the later part of the 2015-16 season, they have all of the necessary pieces that they need to upset the Raptors in the first round. It’s up to Indiana to not shoot themselves in the foot and to limit mistakes if they wish to make some noise in this year’s playoffs.