PreGame Chatter: Pacers vs. Raptors

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -The Indiana Pacers will look to build on the 120-118 overtime victory they achieved against the Orlando Magic on Friday. 

On Sunday afternoon, the Pacers will take on the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Both teams will be without key players as Indiana will continue to not have TJ Warren and Caris LeVert. Meanwhile, Toronto will not have Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam in the lineup.

Here's what Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren had to say entering the team's matchup with the Raptors: 

What Bjorkgren Learned from Raptors Players

Being a member of the Raptors coaching staff was a tremendous learning experience for Bjorkgren. While much has been made of learning under Nick Nurse, there's a lot that Bjorkgren has picked up from the players he coached in Toronto. 

"They've played in a lot of big games in their life. Guys like Kyle Lowry. has seen about every defensive coverage on him, every play call that there is. He's played in this league a long time. He has a good read of what plays are coming. His intelligence level is very high. 

"Fred VanVleet, same thing. Hasn't played in the league as long as Kyle has but their level of IQ is very high in knowing tendencies of players, knowing tendencies of teams. 

"You can learn a lot being around guys like that knowing they've had to go out and guard a certain individual for so many teams. Maybe it's been 25 times in their life. They get to find tendencies of what that player can do well and what they can't. There's. a lot more than that, but that would be some of the beginning things."

Getting the Raptors Off the Three-Point Line

There isn't a team in the NBA that averages more three-point attempts per game than the Raptors. The Pacers will look to prevent the Raptors from getting to the rim but will counter Toronto's three-point tendencies when given the chance. 

"The first thing is to make sure transition defense is great and that we get our defense back and set so they don't catch us off guard. They will have multiple guards handle. They will throw ahead. And yes, do they want to show a lot of threes? They do. But they do want that rim. You can't let that three-point line completely fool you. 

"Yes, they take the most of them in the NBA, no question, but they want to get to that paint first. They want to attack the rim, they want the spray out threes, so our initial on-ball defense has to be great."

Just Another Game

It's no secret that Bjorkgren came to the Pacers after previously being an assistant on the Raptors' coaching staff. Sunday's game will be the first time Bjorkgren will coach against his former team since departing to Indiana.

"These games come at you so fast. I think about it but it's just another opponent, another great team, great players, great coach. You just have to constantly stay ready for what's coming at you next. 

"This Toronto team is capable of many different things we have to prepare our players for. We have to come out and play hard."

Experience in Toronto

The Pacers are dealing with no shortage of injuries and health issues to key players. Caris LeVert and TJ Warren will be critical in the Pacers' success when they get back in the lineup, but in the meantime, Indiana has to get by without them. Bjorkgren's time in Toronto and in the D-League helped prepare him. 

"It did prepare me. In the last couple of years there in Toronto, we had injuries and the next man came in and played well and did their job and didn't miss a beat. It was even before Toronto, going through the D-League with how the roster changes constantly. You can't pout about it. You can't pout about missing a guy. Yes, would you like to have a full team and full health all the time? Absolutely. 

"That's a coach's dream, but it doesn't happen. You can't pout. That's why you have to keep the rest of your team ready. Our team has done a good job. The players have done a good job of staying ready mentally and conditioning-wise. Knowing what we're in and at what point of the game I can throw them in at any moment."

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