The Toronto Raptors' past postseason demons resurfaced in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Indiana Pacers, and it wasn't pretty. After back-to-back losses, Indiana bounced back in a big way en route to a 100-83 triumph to knot the series at two.
Toronto played like a team that looked like it already had the series in the bag to start the game. Indiana head coach Frank Vogel opted to insert Myles Turner at the four and Ian Mahinmi at the five, a move that paid big dividends in his team's win.
The Raptors didn't remotely resemble the squad we saw in Game 3 in the first half. Toronto's defense was horrendous, particularly in the opening quarter, and the Pacers made them pay early.
DeMar DeRozan could not get anything going, and often looked lost on the court. Sure he played well on Thursday, but it's a concerning trend as his playoff struggles returned. DeRozan had only four points while going 2-for-8 from the field in the opening two quarters. Luis Scola was once again the weakest link, and it's simply baffling how Patrick Patterson is not starting by this point.
The Argentinian's inability to challenge shots continues to kill the Raptors' interior defense. JV was beasting again, remaining the most dominant player of the series. Casey tried to shake things up by bringing Norman Powell into the game and the adjustment seemed to work, as Powell played like a seasoned veteran instead of a rookie. The decision came far too late, though.
Name a mistake and the Raps likely made it in the first half. Toronto gave up wide open three-pointers, looked generally lost on offense and turned over the ball at a frightening clip. They even turned it over on an inbound pass that resulted in three at one point. The Raptors committed 11 turnovers compared to four assists, and the Pacers had 16 assists and seven turnovers. Indy shot 56 percent from the field while Toronto shot 43 percent.
The Dinos trailed by 25 at one point but went on a 14-4 run in the final minutes of the second quarter to close the deficit to 57-42 at the break.
As they have all series, Indiana let Scola fire away at will from beyond the arc, yet he failed to convert on those opportunities time and time again. Toronto did a good job of beating the pressure to find the open shooter, but it was often Scola. The 35-year-old finished with one point and was 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from three.
The defense was there in the third quarter but the offense wasn't. Indiana cooled off, as both teams struggled to get anything going. Lowry picked up his fourth foul at the three minute mark with the game slipping away, which led to some run for the all-bench lineup as DeRozan's issues continued. Toronto kept cutting the deficit to around 12 points before missing more good looks from downtown. Heading into the fourth the Pacers led 73-58, with both squads collecting just 16 points apiece in the frame. The Raptors went 1-for-11 from three-point land in those 12 minutes. Woof.
In a disappointing display, Patrick Patterson picked up a technical foul to open the fourth. Casey decided to go with a small lineup in an effort to create mismatches, with Lowry, DeRozan, Patterson, Terrence Ross and DeMarre Carroll all getting burn. Considering DeRozan's failure to make an impact, the argument to play Powell in this instance was definitely there. The move was too little too late, however, and Indiana successfully thwarted any comeback attempt for Canada's lone NBA club.
Tensions flared around the five minute mark, with Paul George, Valanciunas and Carroll getting into it. Carroll didn't back down and tried to get at PG13 but was rewarded with a technical for the effort. JV and George received double technicals. My God, this game was frustrating to watch.
DeRozan and Lowry finished the contest with a combined 8-for-27 from the field. DeRozan failed to get to the free throw line in another underwhelming performance. The Raptors shot themselves in the foot, evidenced by 17 turnovers that led to 25 points. Turnovers, poor three-point shooting (8-for-30), missed free throws (nine) and points in the paint by the Pacers (50) doomed Toronto from the get go.
The Raptors have not won consecutive road games to win a series in franchise history. They're also 0-13 in playoff day games. As action shifts back to Toronto, there's going to be plenty to talk about. Have your say in the comment section.