Free NBA Picks: Raptors at Pacers Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/6/2014
Sometimes there's a thing called addition by subtraction. Rudy Gay was probably the best player on the Toronto Raptors since being acquired last season from Memphis. The problem is that Gay shot too much and, frankly, not well enough. Anyone can average around 20 points a night if they get the ball enough. He also wasn't very good defensively. So in a total salary dump, Toronto traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento in a seven-player deal in early December. It seemed like a great move in the sense that it gave Toronto major salary relief after this season and should have assured a more "tanking" role for the Raptors this season without their leading scorer.
Except that hasn't happened. Toronto has gone 10-4 since the Gay trade to take a four-game lead into this week in perhaps the worst division in major American sports history, the Atlantic. This looks like a playoff team, which unfortunately will mean no lottery pick and a shot at Canadian Andrew Wiggins at the top of the 2014 draft. It's why I believe the Raptors aren't done dealing, with point guard Kyle Lowry rumored to be the next guy to go.
As for the Pacers, they have the NBA's best record, and their only goal is to finish a game ahead of Miami by the end of the regular season so they can have a potential Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Indianapolis and not South Florida. Tuesday night's matchup is the third of four meetings this season between Indiana and Toronto and, who knows, a potential playoff preview.
Raptors at Pacers Betting Story Lines
The only two losses in the past nine games for Toronto are pretty acceptable: at San Antonio on Dec. 23 and at Miami on Sunday. Really that last defeat showed how far Toronto has come as it gave the Heat everything they could handle. The Heat were able to outscore the Raptors 23-13 in the fourth for the victory. It ended a five-game winning streak for the dinosaurs. DeMar DeRozan is the clear primary scorer for Toronto now. He's averaging a career-high 21.1 points per game and was arguably the second-best player on the floor behind LeBron James on Sunday with 26 points. I'm a big fan of second-year player Jonas Valanciunas, and he's averaging around 12.5 points and 9.5 boards since Gay left.
Indiana has won two straight and seven of eight since its only two-game losing streak this season. The Pacers won 82-78 in Cleveland on Sunday in their last game. They nearly blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead against a Cavs team without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. It was a typical Indiana game: five guys in double figures and holding the Cavs to 34 percent from the field. The Pacers are No. 1 in the NBA in scoring defense. They haven't allowed 100 points since a Dec. 16 trap-game loss (came ahead of a showdown with Miami) at home against Detroit. That remains Indiana's lone home loss.
Indiana and Toronto have split two meetings. On Nov. 8 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers won 91-84 behind 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Paul George. Typical Gay line: it looked good on the surface with 26 points, but he also attempted 26 shots to do it. The rest of the starting five attempted 39. On New Year's Day in Toronto, the Raptors surprised the Pacers 95-82 behind 26 from DeRozan and 13 points and 14 assists from Lowry. George was held to 12 for Indiana, which had a season-high 23 turnovers. The Pacers had won four straight north of the border. George has been slumping a bit, averaging 17.3 points on .354 from the field in three January games.
Raptors at Pacers Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Indiana is a nine-point opening favorite with a total of 189.5. The Raptors are 18-14 ATS (13-5 on road) and 17-15 “over/under” (8-10 on road). Indiana is 23-10 ATS (12-5 at home) and 12-21 over/under (4-13 at home). The Raptors are 4-0 ATS in their past four after a loss. They are 7-0 ATS in their past seven after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. Toronto is 1-4 ATS in its past five Tuesday games. The Pacers are 14-2 ATS in their past 16 after a loss. The under is 7-0 in Toronto's past seven against the Central Division. The under is 4-0 in Indiana's past four. The Raptors are 4-0 ATS in the past four at Indiana. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Free NBA Picks: Raptors at Pacers Betting Predictions
What's the clear difference with the Raptors since the Gay trade? Sharing the ball. They had 24 assists in the loss to the Heat and have had 20 or more assists 11 times in the last 14 games. Prior to the trade, the Raptors had 20-plus assists three times in the first 18 games. A win here would move Toronto above .500 this late in the year for the first time since Feb. 25, 2008. That's not going to happen, but I do believe this is a confident team that should be able to cover the spread comfortably. Take the under.
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