Game Rewind: Pacers 84, Raptors 89 (Game 7)
With under three minutes remaining in the game, Monta Ellis followed up a thundering Solomon Hill transition dunk with a crowd-silencing 3-pointer to cut the Pacers’ deficit to just three points. The Pacers had entered the quarter trailing by 14.
But on the other end, Kyle Lowry converted a layup to give the Raptors breathing room again, as second-seeded Raptors — pushed to the brink in a winner-take-all Game 7 — managed to overpower the Pacers, winning the game 89-84 and ending Indiana’s season in Canada.
“They played a great game and got a lead,” Monta Ellis said after the game. “It’s hard trying to fight back against a team like that. We were doing it but came up short. It was a great game.”
After Paul George sunk two free throws to bring the score to 87-84, the Pacers regained control of a Toronto miss, giving them possession with 26.9 seconds remaining in the game and a chance to tie. But a PG miss was corralled by DeMar DeRozan, who ran the clock down to 6.5 seconds and made it a two-possession game by hitting on a pair of free throws, ending the hopes of a Pacers comeback.
There was reason to believe the Pacers could become just the sixth seventh seed to upset a second seed in the first round, but in front of the deafening roar of the Air Canada Centre crowd, the Pacers were outscored in every quarter but the fourth, trailing by five after one, six at the half, and 14 entering the fourth and final quarter of their season.
George started the night with his usual level of Playoff excellence, scoring 17 in the first half. But he was kept in check for the most part in the second half, adding nine points to his team-high 26 points.
“He went on there and competed,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said of George. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and how far we’ve come this year.”
In the fourth quarter, with the light of a comeback dimming, the Pacers dug in. After George hit a pair of free throws with six minutes left to cut their deficit to 12, PG did it again, hitting a floater to bring the score to 83-73, where the Pacers made their impressive final run.
But the Raptors’ lead proved to be too tall a task. Despite several key turnovers forced by the Pacers down the stretch, Toronto was able to do enough to stay in control of the game, setting them up for a second-round matchup with the Miami Heat.
George started the game roaring on offense, making his first three shots and finishing the opening quarter with 12 points, including a 360-dunk in transition.
But it was the Raptors who had control in the early going, leading by five in the opening minutes before George and Ellis provided a spark, leading Indiana to its first lead of the game, 21-20.
George wasn’t the only player in an early groove on offense. His counterpart on the Raps, DeRozan, quickly racked up 13 points, tallying five buckets in the first quarter as the Raptors built a 28-23 lead. DeRozan finished the night with a game-high 30 points.
The Pacers started the second quarter off well, taking the lead for the second time when Rodney Stuckey drilled an open three from the wing, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Raptors rookie Norman Powell put Indiana down 36-32, forcing a Frank Vogel timeout.
Toronto continued to flow even after the timeout, finishing off an 8-1 run with a Cory Joseph jumper, two of his six points off the bench in the first half. Powell also provided a boost for Toronto, coming off the pine to add 10 points in the early going.
But the Pacers continued to bite into the Raptors’ lead — which got as high as eight in the half — as George Hill scored with a jumper and a floating layup on consecutive possessions.
George Hill’s play was incisive all night, finding space to shoot and hitting on 8-of-11 shots, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, to rack up 19 points on the evening.
But to close the half, Jonas Valanciunas sunk two free throws to put the Raptors up 50-44, with the Pacers needing a comeback in the final two quarters to knock off Toronto.
In the third, the teams exchanged runs frequently, but the Raptors got in the first punch. Leading by six to open up the half, Toronto fired out of the locker room with a 8-2 run, going up by 15 when Patrick Patterson drilled a 3-pointer to send the home crowd into bedlam.
But the Pacers quickly rallied back, using an 11-2 run which featured eight points at the rim as Indiana attacked the paint. But the Raptors, sensing their lead shrink, broke off an 8-0 run, which was then countered by a 5-0 Pacers spurt. Then DeRozan responded, scoring six unanswered Raptors points to put Toronto comfortably in the driver’s seat entering the fourth. DeRozan fired away all night, going 10-of-32 from the field but making all nine of his free throws as the Raptors edged the Pacers closer to the end of their year.
But Indiana wasn’t finished yet.
With their season hanging in the balance, Indiana held the Raptors scoreless for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, however, the Blue & Gold was only able to get three points on the board during that window, narrowing its deficit to 11 with 8:30 remaining.
From there, Indiana winnowed it down to just three points in the final three minutes, but Toronto’s 49-38 rebounding advantage, coupled with 15 Pacers turnovers, proved to be the advantage the Raptors needed to capture their first Playoff series win since 2001, and send Indiana into the offseason.
But even after the loss, an optimistic Vogel sat at the podium.
“We have a complete team, and our guys played well and (Paul George) played well,” he told the room of reporters. “We have to continue to grow, continue to build.”
Inside the Numbers
The Raptors were able to get to the free throw line 17 times, compared to just eight trips for Indiana.
The Pacers had been 3-0 this series when holding the Raptors to under 40 percent shooting as a team. But Toronto was still able to get the win despite shooting 38.2 percent.
Rookie Norman Powell was huge for the Raptors, going 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points.
Toronto outrebounded the Pacers 49-38. Paul George had a team-high 12 rebounds.
You Can Quote Me On That
“I will say this, they are a tough team. That young man Myles Turner is going to be a player and I want to congratulate them because Frank (Vogel) did a heck of a job. They made adjustments, we made adjustments, that team right there is a big-time team. Paul George is back.” -Raptors head coach Dwane Casey