For the Toronto Raptors, it was a same-song-different-verse feeling after dropping game one to the number seven seeded Indiana Pacers Saturday afternoon. The number two seeded Raptors suffered their seventh straight playoff loss dating back to the 2014 NBA Playoffs and now trail the Pacers 1-0 in the best of seven series.
During their four regular season games, the team who reached triple digits wound up being the victor. The playoffs would be no exception. The Pacers, who were third in NBA defensive efficiency, held the Raptors to 38 percent from the field, a dismal 4-19 mark from beyond the three-point arc and 19 turnovers for the 100-90 win.
Paul George exorcises Toronto demons
Paul George averaged 16.3 points and 30.8 percent shooting against the Raptors during the season which was seven points and 11 percentage points lower than his season averages. It appeared Toronto would continue to have George's number in game one, as he was held to just six points on 2-9 shooting throughout the first half.
But then the second half began.
George scored 27 points in the second half alone and took over the game down the stretch. The Pacers led 79-78 with just under six minutes left in the game. George would either score or assist on the Pacers next five scores over the next three minutes. George hit a three from the corner and a jumper over two Raptor defenders to make it 84-80 and then followed that with back-to-back assists to Myles Turner, one for a dunk. George put the game further out of reach for the Raptors with another jumper from the top of the key to make it an eight-point Indiana lead with 2:36 left in the game. Monta Ellis hit his third three of the game to make it 95-82 and essentially sink any hopes the Toronto faithful had of seeing a last minute comeback.
George finished with 33 points, six assists, four rebounds, four steals, two blocks and shot 12-22 from the field, including 4-5 from deep.
The Pacers grabbed their first lead of the game at 48-45 early in the third quarter. Ellis made it a 60-58 game with a three to help George in what was a huge third quarter. George scored 17 points in the third frame while going 6-7 from the field. He hit a three to push the Pacers lead to four points and then showcased his ability as one of the top two-way players in the league with a steal and a transition dunk to make it 69-65 Indiana.
Ellis was one of four Pacers not named Paul George to reach double figures in points. He scored 15 points evenly throughout the game, made three of four three-point attempts and added three steals. Solomon Hill finished with 13 points by going a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and sinking a three ball. Turner was big on the defensive end, blocking five shots, and also contributing 10 points and five boards.
Raptors struggling back court
For as great as George was, the Raptors' star guard combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were just as bad. The duo, who averaged nearly 45 points per game together and led Toronto to a team record 56 wins, were held to just 25 combined points and were 8-32 from the field. DeRozan recorded 10 of his 14 points in the second half, but struggled from the start with Lowry. DeRozan finished 5-19 from the field, as Lowry recorded 11 points, seven assists and was 3-13 for the game and 1-7 from deep after averaging nearly 40 percent from three during the season.
They both shot 1-5 after the first quarter. DeRozan was 2-8 and Lowry 2-9 at the halfway mark of the ballgame.
Right off the bat, there was an uneasy sense that Lowry may be off his game. He missed both free throw opportunities in the opening minutes of the game. His poor free throw shooting continued to be a factor down the stretch, as he missed five of nine attempts for the game, including three straight during the fourth quarter that would have kept Toronto on the heels of Indiana.
Toronto's continuing playoff problems
The loss makes it three straight playoff game one losses for the Raptors, who are still looking for their first playoff series win since the 2000-2001 season. The Raptors are now 1-8 all time in game ones and from the body language displayed by the Toronto bench in the final minutes, the team appeared to believe they had just lost the series, rather than just the game.
The Raptors led the entire game up until the opening minutes of the second half. Despite the down play from DeRozan and Lowry, other players stepped up in their absence. Jonas Valanciunas had a record breaking game by securing the most number of rebounds in a playoff game in franchise history. His 12 points and 19 rebounds were huge, as he had a near double-double in the first quarter with eight points and nine rebounds. Valanciunas battled foul trouble all game and picked up his final foul with two minutes left after spending most of the second half on the bench.
Cory Joseph was also impressive for Toronto, as he scored a team-high 18 points on 5-6 shooting off the bench. Patrick Patterson recorded nine points and six rebounds, along with a couple of transition dunks, to help secure the lead in the first half.
The series will remain North of the border for game two on Monday. The Raptors were 32-9 at home this season and will be in a must-win mentality before having to travel to Indiana for games three and four.