After being sidelined for over a year, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is set to return to action Wednesday night.
It's time.#Ready4Action pic.twitter.com/Ky70m0uk7k- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 29, 2020
Any time an All-Star calibre player returns to action, there is undoubtedly a ripple effect felt across the league and, more specifically, among the teams they are in direct competition with for playoff seeding.
At the time of his return, the Pacers' 30-17 record is good for sixth in a developing Eastern Conference playoff picture that looks to be nowhere near its final form, which is where the Toronto Raptors first come in to play.
With a quick glance, it's pretty clear how this news directly impacts Toronto as Indiana is within striking distance after playing over half of the season without its biggest star.
And it gets much deeper than that…
The schedule ahead
The Pacers have played 47 games, meaning Oladipo will be available for some or all of the team's final 35 contests, with respect to potential time missed for recovery management.
Over the final 35 games, the Pacers face the Raptors more than any other team as they are set to meet three times, all in February.
- Feb. 5, Indiana at Toronto
- Feb. 7, Toronto at Indiana
- Feb. 23, Indiana at Toronto
The Pacers took the first meeting between the two teams, earning a 120-115 overtime win over the Raptors on Dec. 23.
As Toronto and Indiana jockey for positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, it adds increased meaning to these next meetings as a best 2-out-of-3 in some respects. Winning the season series could come in handy as a tiebreaker at the season's end.
Should the teams split the season series and neither wins their respective division, the conference win-loss percentage becomes the next tiebreaker.
Home court advantage
It's no secret that any team would want to open up the postseason at home.
As it stands, two of Boston, Miami, Toronto, Philadelphia or Indiana will not get that luxury. It appears to be even more important than in years past as the Heat (21-3), 76ers (22-2) and Celtics (18-5) have each established themselves as some of the league's best home teams.
The home records of Indiana (17-5) and Toronto (17-7) aren't too far behind. Toronto is currently in prime position to hold onto a top seed but with over 30 games left to play, things could change rather quickly.
This could even be a potential 4-5 matchup in the postseason.
The Pacers' record is all the more impressive when considering that in addition to Oladipo, free-agent acquisition Malcolm Brogdon has missed extended time due to various injuries. This team has done more than stay afloat without its star-studded backcourt.
If anyone knows about dealing with injuries this season, it's the Raptors.
According to Spotrac's injured list tracker, Toronto has now missed 155 man-games due to injury, the sixth-most in the league.
Key players have missed time for the Raptors, too, as Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka have all missed at least 10 of the team's first 47 games.
Momentum towards the postseason is real. It's tangible. And it will almost certainly have bearing on how each of these teams perform in the postseason. They'll need their most talented players back in the fold to build as much as possible.
Just last season, the Raptors won nine of their last 13 leading into the playoffs. And we all know how that run ended.
Most would agree that Indiana and Toronto are two teams that will be a difficult team to eliminate in the postseason but just how far they can go will heavily depend on how well they end the season.
And if they're able to avoid one another in the first round…
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