The history of Raptors elimination games is, to put it kindly, not great. There's really only one good memory -- Game 5 of the Raptors/Knicks series back in 2001. That's it; that's all we've got. One game in which the Raps' star player lived up to his moniker, the role players did what they were supposed to do, and the breaks of the game went Toronto's way. It still feels good in retrospect.
Today's Game 6 between the Raptors and the Pacers is fraught with a lot of needless tension. It's needless in the sense that many -- like me -- feel as though we shouldn't be here. The Raptors had 56 wins in the regular season and the 2-seed locked up tight. They should be able to breeze past a team with one superstar player, Paul George, and a bunch of question marks (as in: Monta Ellis, what are you doing???). They should.
But the weight of history, man.
Here are the things we have to look for in today's momentous Game 6. If the Raptors win, they're on to the second round for only the second time in franchise history. And what's more, it would represent the team's first every seven-game series win. No pressure.
48 Minutes of Paul George
The Pacers were -18 on offense when George sat for those brief seven minutes of Game 5. George's net effect? +33. That's really good. Now, there's some thinking that suggests coach Frank Vogel should stop sitting all three of George, Ellis and George Hill, but really the key here is George. When he sits, the Pacers are demonstrably worse on offense and defense.
And the Pacers know this. With the season on the line, there may not be any reason for George to sit at all tonight in Game 6. Indiana needs him to: check DeMar DeRozan, be the offensive fulcrum, and keep his teammates moving in the right direction. Either way this goes down, we may see one of the all-time Herculean efforts in playoff history from George tonight.
Which Patrick Patterson?
So here's the thing: we all agree there is no place for Luis Scola in this series. He's a neutral presence at best when he's on the floor. It makes sense to start Patrick Patterson because 2Pat's the man who brings you a little bit of everything -- smart defense, crisp ball movement, and a reliable 3-point shot (with a release that doesn't take eight years). He can keep up with the speed of this particular type of game. Sorry, Luis.
But Patterson's first foray in the starting lineup in Game 5 saw him play beneath the level at which he is accustomed. Which is a nice way of saying: he was -20 in his 25 minutes and didn't do a whole hell of a lot to completely justify his placement in the starting lineup. So, will he get the start again tonight? Will we see that wild and crazy super small lineup again in the 4th? Or will Patterson return to being the Super Plus/Minus Reserve (his official title) and do all the little glue guy things on which he's built his name? Here's hoping.
Kyle Lowry Over Elbow
If you've been reading the Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur, you'd get the distinct feeling Kyle Lowry's elbow is swollen. He said it here. And then twice here. Then again over here for good measure. As an explanation for Lowry's poor shooting, the story checks out. Since it's basically impossible to take the force of Lowry out of a game, he's still been doing his best to make plays. But the Raptors need him to shoot better than 31 percent from the floor -- and they definitely need him to shoot better than 19 percent from 3.
Dwane Casey said he's ride or die with Kyle Lowry and truly there is nothing wrong with that sentiment. Lowry is clearly a guy who gives his all in every aspect of the game he can. When it's all working, there's nothing quite like it.
For Toronto, in this game, in the rest of the playoffs, in the rest of life, we'd really like to see one game where it's all working.
Where to Watch: TSN 1/3/4/5, NBA TV (and ESPNEWS?) at 7:30pm