If there's a defining Raptors playoff characteristic you can point to, it is a consistent case of the yips. That's the truth of it. Remember Vince's 3-for-20? Or Bosh's consistent dear in the headlights look? Of course you do. In the lead up to Game 1 of Raptors vs. Pacers, we looked to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, All-Stars both, and hoped things would be different. It's just part of being a Raptor fan.
After a first half that saw Lowry and DeRozan go a combined 4-for-17, it was safe to assume everyone was wondering if the duo could turn away from the trend that dominates Raptor post-season lore. I'm here to tell you: They did not do that.
The Raptors instead lost Game 1 to Indiana by a score of 100-90. Lowry finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting to go with seven assists. DeRozan cobbled together 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting and almost never looked comfortable. We are an unhappy people.
If you're looking for strengths from the Raptors' game, there are a few things to mention. Cory Joseph played a strong 24 minutes, put in 18 points and generally looked very composed on the floor. Patrick Patterson continued his run of smart play -- a stout defensive turn here, a fast break finish there. His role on the Raptors, especially given Luis Scola's general ineffectiveness, cannot be overstated. And finally, Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and a post-season franchise record 19 rebounds. Most of them came from tips that he missed, but still, he made a difference. You could say Valanciunas' sketchy third foul was the turning point in the game. He went to the bench and the team seemed to deflate.
The negatives, however, abound. DeRozan's soul was totally crushed by the presence of Paul George, who smothered DeMar while going off for 33 points of his own. George was easily the best player in the game, which bodes poorly for the Raptors. Coach Dwane Casey continually had no way to answer what the Pacers were doing in the second half and kept making curious substitution patterns throughout the game. Carroll came in and out, Powell (who played well) disappeared for long stretches, Patterson played for too long in a row and then sat for too long. The Ross experiment was largely a failure for the third year in a row. The Lowry plus bench lineup barely got any run. And then Casey kept going back to DeRozan even after he'd proven to be totally ineffective. It got to be hard to watch.
The tactics matter, but really this all comes back to Lowry. It hurts to say this but if Lowry is subpar, this series is already over. Like George, Lowry needs to be able to dictate the pace and flow of the game and the series. He did not do that tonight, either frustrated by the defensive looks the Pacers threw at him, or troubled by his elbow (he shot 4-of-9 from the free throw line). Or maybe, god help us, it was just a case of the yips. Those gotdamn yips.
The Raptors have lost another Game 1 at home in the playoffs. It's happened now for three straight years, and it's happened every time the Raptors have been in the first playoffs -- at home or on the road. They are now 1-8 in Game 1s (with their sole win coming in their sole appearance in the second round).
The Raptors now have until Monday night to figure it out. Game 2 is in Toronto and you know what, I'd like the series to return home.
What did you guys think of the game?