Who are the Toronto Raptors?
If you're trying to use this series against the Indiana Pacers to figure them out, good luck to you.
They have two All-Stars, but both have been terrible. The series is tied 3-3, but remove a few strong quarters or halves, and it feels like they just got swept. They are and should be the better team in this matchup, but time and time again, they look out of their depth.
In a series filled with demoralizing moments, Game 6 felt particularly soul-crushing. What went wrong and what needs to be carried over into Game 7?
The starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and Jonas Valanciunas got another look and performed much better than they did in Game 5. In 20.5 minutes of action, that unit played the Pacers even at 38-38. Their best stretch was right off the opening tip, when they got out to an 18-6 lead to start the game.
And that's about where the positives end.
The Raptors committed 16 turnovers, leading to 20 Pacer points. That's become a common theme in this series, as the Pacers have averaged 23.3 points off 18.7 Raptor turnovers in the three Indiana wins, compared to 11.7 Pacer points off only 10.7 Raptor turnovers in the three Toronto victories.
The battle of the paint has also been a big factor. Last night, the Pacers outscored the Raptors 38-32 in points in the paint. In the three Toronto wins, the Raptors have held a 122-84 edge in that category, while the Pacers have held a 114-100 edge in their wins.
DeMar DeRozan had arguably his worst game of the series, and that has some stiff competition. He tied his series-low with only eight points on 3-for-13 shooting, while adding only one assist, and committing four turnovers. Game 5 notwithstanding, he's been terrible this entire series. Credit is due to Paul George for his defense, of course, but DeRozan's complete lack of ability to perform well in the playoffs is starting to loom awfully large going into a summer when someone -- quite possibly Toronto -- is going to give him a max contract.
Kyle Lowry hasn't been all that much better, despite finding other ways to contribute when his shot's not falling. Sure, he tallied his first career postseason double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, but he shot 4-for-14 from the field and 1-for-7 from long range, and has set a record for shooting futility through six games of a playoff series.
Lowry first player to shoot below 40% in first six games of a series.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) April 30, 2016
With that, the team's two All-Stars are shooting a combined 31.6% from the field and 17.3% from three-point range through six games. We here at Raptors HQ have spilled a lot of virtual ink about the struggles of these two in this series, but how can you pin the failings of the team on anything other than the colossal failings of the team's two best players at this point? There are other negatives, for sure, but those things likely could've been covered up with something more out of DeMar and Kyle. It's that simple.
It comes down to that second half. The Raptors took a 44-40 lead into halftime, and were shaky coming out of intermission, but they even cut the score to 65-64 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
And only one game removed from dominating the last 12 minutes and change of a contest to get a win, the Raptors did the exact opposite in Game 6.
From that 1:49 mark in the third quarter, the Pacers went on a 32-6 run in which they shot 10-for-15, compared to the Raptors' 2-for-16, and they outrebounded the Raptors 13-3.
Garbage time favoured the Raptors' bench over the Pacers', so the 101-83 score doesn't even reflect just how badly things fell apart for that roughly 10-minute stretch.
This was an absolute meltdown in every sense of the word.
Let's hope for better in Game 7.