The Indiana Pacers will have nightmares about Tuesday night's fourth quarter.
Ranked 25th in the NBA in Offensive Rating this year, the Pacers have known plenty of offensive struggles, but none quite as frustrating and devastating as this one. Indiana scored 9 points in the fourth quarter, before which they had a commanding 13-point lead after 3 quarters.
Before the fourth
An early 6:00 PM EST start might have played to the Pacers' advantage. They were balling in the first quarter. Frank Vogel's team was hustling, rebounding, and defending with effort. Kyle Lowry couldn't by a bucket for the Toronto Raptors, and after their first quarter with 11 assists on 12 field goals, the Pacers led by 15.
But then came the first Raptors run.
With the bench in, Toronto swooped into the 2nd quarter with an 11-0 run. Cory Joseph, who was an enormous key all game, converted an and-one putback to cut the lead to six. Suddenly, the previously anemic Air Canada Centre was rocking again.
Even so, the Pacers managed to limit the second quarter damage, and they entered the second half with a 61-52 lead. In the third, Indiana seemingly began to pull away. Paul George, finishing with 39 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, was crucifying Toronto and the Raptors couldn't get a big enough run going to cut deep into the lead.
That was until the fourth quarter came about and all hell broke loose.
(Cory) Joseph: King of Dreams
Don't let that title fool you. Joseph was vital to the 4th quarter run that won the game for the Raptors, but don't forget about Norman Powell (10pts/4reb/2stl) and Bismack Biyombo (10pts/16reb). The trio was tremendous Tuesday night, coming off the bench to swing the game in the fourth. With them, Lowry, and Terrence Ross on the floor together, Toronto began the final quarter on a 21-2 run. Coach Dwane Casey stuck with the smaller lineup and it worked out phenomenally.
The Air Canada Center was rocking too. After a tough corner three by Ross to cut the Pacers' lead to two, Norman Powell poked away a pass intended for Paul George and finished his one-man fastbreak with a thunderous slam. The Raptors had all the momentum in Canada and then some, the Pacers once again struggling to score in the fourth.
Indiana refused to quit, however. A second chance three by Solomon Hill cut the Raptor lead to 100-99 with 15 seconds left, and after DeMar DeRozan sunk two free throws, the visitors had a legitimate shot to tie the game and send it to Overtime. Predictably, hell broke loose once again.
Down three, Monta Ellis (8pts/4reb/3ast/3-for-10 FG) drove to the hoop and had a layup attempt blocked by Lowry, but after Monta and Bismack Biyombo fought for the rebound, the refs convened at the scorer's table for a closer look. Initially, they called a jump ball, but then changed it to Pacers ball with 2.7 seconds left.
On the final play of Game 5, Paul George looped from the left corner around the three-point arc, catching the ball on the left wing behind the line. After two Raptor defenders flocked to him, George faked up, swooped under, and found Solomon Hill by the left corner for a wide open three. He drained it. Toronto was stunned, at least until the refs again went to the sideline to review the shot. Hill released the ball about 0.07 seconds–no joke–after the buzzer sounded and the red light glared around the backboard.
Somehow, the Raptors had survived. And rather unpredictably, they now have a 3-2 series lead.
Lines of the Night:
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan: 34 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 10/22 FG, 12/13 FT
Bismack Biyombo: 10 points, 16 rebounds, and huge offensive boards down the stretch.
Indiana: Paul George: 39 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 11/19 FG, 5/11 3PT, 12/12 FT
Game 6 between the Raptors and Pacers will be on Friday night in Indianapolis. With a win, the Raptors will win their first playoff series in 15 years. With a loss, they'll have to go back home for Game 7.