The Toronto Raptors finished just a game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, however, with the performance that the 56-26 team displayed in Saturday afternoon's 100-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers, you could have painted them to be a junior varsity group.
Raptors haunted by shooting struggles
Toronto shot just 37% from the field and 8-30 from three-point range, turning the ball over on 17 occasions while racking up just 12 total assists, half of what the Pacers amounted, as they faltered in Indianapolis, knotting up the first round series at two games apiece as the series shifts north of the border once again.
Indiana made just six three-pointers themselves, however, a fluid offensive performance and a suffocating defensive approach allowed them to fluster the normally-stout Raptors.
The team shot 47% from the field while accounted for 50 points in the paint and 24 assists on the afternoon. Toronto capitalized on the Pacers 12 turnovers for 25 extra points, however, Indiana garnered more steals (10-8) and blocks (5-3) than did their opponent.
Mahinmi, Hill lead Pacers charge
Critical in the Pacers victory was center Ian Mahinmi, who exploded for a career-high 22 points in addition to 10 rebounds and five assists on 9-14 shooting in 33 minutes, compiling a team-best +20 plus-minus while offsetting rookie big man Myles Turner's poor showing of four points on 2-13 shooting and a neutral plus-minus.
Additionally, point guard George Hill hit nine of his 11 shot attempts for 22 points and four rebounds, and small forward Paul George recorded 19 points and four boards. Small forward Solomon Hill piloted the Pacers bench with seven points and a +15 plus-minus in 28 minutes.
Excluding center Jonas Valanciunas, who converted on six of his seven shot attempts for 16 points and six rebounds, the lid was closed for much of the night for the Raptors.
All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry suffered through a 4-12 shooting afternoon while putting up just 12 points and five rebounds while shooting guard Demar DeRozan ached through a dismal 4-15 performance from the field en route to eight points, failing to reach the free throw line on a single occasion.
Combined, the two missed all seven of their three-point attempts, setting the tone for a lackadasical showcase of offense for Toronto.
Pacers lead for entirety of game
After a Hill three-pointer opened up the scoring, the Pacers led for the entire contest. A DeRozan bucket midway through the first quarter brought the Raptors to within 17-13, however, Indiana took off from there with an 11-1 run.
Following a Mahinmi dunk, George, Hill, and shooting guard Monta Ellis all knocked down treys, extending the Pacers advantage to 28-14.
A three-pointer by Toronto's Terrence Ross with 9:55 remaining in the first half cut the deficit to 33-22, however, the Pacers fired back once again with an even more drastic surge, riding a 20-6 run to a commanding 53-28 lead with just over three minutes left in the second quarter fueled by a plethora of forced turnovers and the overwhelming presence of mind-numbing defensive pressure.
A 14-4 run to end the first half brought the Raptors deficit to just 15 entering the halftime break, however, abysmal shooting in the third quarter (1-11 from deep) prevented Toronto from ever coming within single digits of knotting up the ballgame down the stretch.