Indiana Pacers

I’m not going to lie. It’s getting harder to motivate myself to create these game threads. This has become the most depressing Raptors season to cover since the hellish Kevin O’Neill Era in 2003-04 — and back then I was still a wet-behind-the-ears blogger hungry to make my mark in the world of sports pseudo-journalism.

How can I get myself interested in this team again? Should I root for them to keep losing so they approach the NBA record of 23 consecutive losses set by the Vancouver Grizzlies in their inaugural 1995-96 season and tied by the Denver Nuggets in 1997-98? There’s probably not much point because the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost their last 20 games so they’re probably going to get there first. (Fun fact: Current Cavs coach Byron Scott was the sixth man on that record-setting Grizzlies team.)

That leaves me with little choice but to focus on the ongoing development of young players like Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless. Amir scored a career-high 24 points against Milwaukee on Friday, Ed notched his fourth double-double of the season (15 points, 11 rebounds) against Minnesota on Saturday, and Jerryd finished two rebounds away from a triple-double against the Grizzlies last Monday. So there is some hope that things could get better, right?

The Indiana Pacers are enduring their own lost season and they decided to take action by firing coach Jim O’Brien after they lost to the Bulls by 21 on Saturday. While O’Brien was obviously fired because the Pacers weren’t playing up to expectations, the recent derailment of Roy Hibbert’s career had to have played a large part as well. He’s averaged just 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from the field in January. On Saturday, he played 21 minutes, scored just two points and grabbed five rebounds. Considering it was only a couple months ago that he appeared on his way to being a top five center in this league, the decline has been shocking.

The Raptors have their own struggling center, of course. So I suppose the key matchup of the night will be “The Battle of the Beleaguered Big Men.” There’s my hook, and I’m sticking with it.

Injury report

Toronto: Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza remain out of the lineup.

Indiana: Brandon Rush is out until mid-February while Tyler Hansbrough is listed as questionable with pneumonia.

Five questions

1. Is it time to officially proclaim DeMar DeRozan as the primary scoring option on this team?

2. Will crashing the boards be the Raptors’ key to breaking this losing streak? They were outrebounded by an average of 7.2 boards per game over those 11 losses.

3. Will we see some extended playing time for intriguing Pacers rookie Paul George under interim coach Frank Vogel?

4. Do you think the Raptors should fire Jay Triano if they exceed a certain number of consecutive losses?

5. Is whoever puts together the Raptors’ official game notes unaware that Jim O’Brien got fired yesterday? (See page two.)

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Indiana: Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Roy Hibbert

In tribute to the end of the Jim O’Brien Era in Indiana, our pregame song is “Fired” by Ben Folds. Also, the key line in the song is something many of you probably thought while watching the Raptors’ deplorable display against the T-Wolves on Saturday: “Every one of you is fired.”