Though there’s still a bit of seeding drama to unfurl, the Raptors are at a relatively meaningless juncture in their season. We have just ten days left before it all wraps up, the first round opponent options aren’t all that different, and the team is still awaiting Kyle Lowry’s return.
Even knowing that, though, it was a frustrating experience watching Tuesday’s game in Indiana. The team came out doing everything right, building a lead as high as 19, going into halftime up 51-40. In the third, though, they came out lazy — no other word for it — and an abhorrent four-minute stretch by the starting lineup allowed the Pacers back in. Pretty soon, it was a barnstorm for the hungry Indiana team, as they outscored the Raptors 68 to 39 (!!) in the second half to win 108-90.
Toronto was led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan, who had 27 points on 9-for-21 shooting. He wasn’t looking to pass as much tonight, getting off to a slow start as his teammates picked up the scoring load. This turned into a lot of isolation looks early in the third as DeRozan attempted to get himself going, which disturbed offensive flow. Though he eventually turned it around to get to his point total, it’s hard to overlook the long twos taken early in the shot clock while Indiana was making their run.
Elsewhere on the roster, it was about as hot and cold as you can get. DeMarre Carroll (3-for-5, 11 points), Cory Joseph (5-for-7, ten points), and Jonas Valanciunas (4-for-6, ten points) all had really good offensive nights. Valanciunas continues to dominate his matchups with Myles Turner, and while the Pacers still spent a lot of time going at him in the pick and roll on the other end, he wasn’t the only reason the Raptors had a precipitous defensive drop-off.
That was also, somewhat, on Serge Ibaka and Patrick Patterson. Toronto got a combined 4-for-19 night from their power forwards, as they missed all ten of their three-point attempts — a lot of them bad misses that turned into Indiana leak outs. Ibaka has looked tentative on offense for a while now, passing up rhythm looks for awkward drives, or swings that hurt his team. Patterson, meanwhile, is still in the most maddening shooting period of his career. Some nights, the threes go in. Other nights, like Tuesday, he’ll brick and air out everything.
Indiana got an excellent performance from Paul George in the win. His 35 points and ten rebounds came on some high difficulty shots, especially when guarded by P.J. Tucker. Jeff Teague was also excellent, with 20 points and six assists.
Lance Stephenson was also a story tonight, playing in his first home game since his return to the Pacers. The home crowd was friendly to Lance, as he scored 12 points. The Raptors were not friendly, though, as his last two came on a breakout with three seconds left and his team up 15. Tucker and DeRozan immediately squared up to Stephenson at mid-court and a nice scrum broke out.
Pacers' Lance Stephenson triggers unwritten rules beef w/ Raptors by making stat-padding lay-up at the end of a decided game (all angles) pic.twitter.com/VHVwHQ8muU— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 5, 2017
After that, the Raptors ended the game by walking out without shaking hands, earning a not-so-friendly wave from Aaron Brooks. Though it’s highly unlikely, a rematch between the Pacers and Raptors would make for an interesting series. Lest we forget who the real winners are, Toronto still has the season series (2-1) in hand, as well as last year’s first round series.
And really, tonight should be about looking on the bright side. Sure, Toronto had a lapse to start the third, allowing a team back in that’s fighting for their playoff lives (the Pacers are, for now, in the eight seed). It’s still hard to decontextualize this from where we are in the season — the Raptors have been playing a soft schedule, they got out to an easy lead tonight, and promptly got comfortable at an inopportune time. You’d expect this isn’t a trend that would continue into the playoffs, especially considering the fisticuffs this game ended in.
What did you think of tonight’s game?