For about two-and-a-half quarters, the jokes wrote themselves.
The Toronto Raptors were down by 14 to the Indiana Pacers early. They climbed back, but then fell behind by 15 in the second quarter. Climbed back again, then fell behind by 14 in the third.
”They got ‘em where they want ‘em,” the cries came, recalling last night’s big comeback against the Dallas Mavericks.
And they did, apparently, have the Pacers right where they wanted them. Putting truth to all the jokes, the Raptors stormed back again about halfway through the third, taking their first lead as the quarter ticked away, 79-78 on a Kyle Lowry buzzer-beating layup.
A fast-paced fourth saw the teams trade leads five times before the Raptors took a five-point lead, 98-93, with 4:09 to go. Indiana looked wiped out by Toronto’s D, and it seemed like a couple of stops would let the Raptors walk away with their sixth straight win.
Alas, Aaron Holiday had other plans.
Starting in place of Malcolm Brogdon, Holiday scored seven of Indiana’s next 14 points, and assisted on two other made buckets, as the Pacers tied it up, 107-107. A deep Kyle Lowry three missed at the buzzer.
And in OT, it was more Holiday. He hit two three-pointers, and assisted another Myles Turner three, as the Pacers went 4-of-6 from downtown to secure the 120-115 win.
As it did last night, most of this game’s second half belonged to the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Kyle Lowry. Feeding off of an angry crowd (chants of “flopper” rained down), Lowry took control of the game, leading the comeback with 22 points in the half (including 5-of-9 shooting from downtown) along with five rebounds and six assists. Fred VanVleet, who couldn’t get an outside shot to drop, wormed his way to the rim multiple times, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who didn’t score a field goal in the second half, was everywhere on D and on the boards, doing everything he could to make up for Toronto’s lack of size and interior presence.
Also much like last night, Toronto’s D provided a spark to fuel the comeback fire. Against Dallas it was the full-court press, but against Indiana it was a 2-3 zone that turned up the pressure on Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner in the paint.
Unfortunately for Toronto, Indiana didn’t end up needing that paint presence, as they were buoyed by an 18-for-42 night from downtown.
Everything seemed to go Indy’s way in the first half, as the Raptors were ice cold and their defense a step slow. Turner got whatever he wanted on the pick-and-roll, and ended up with 11 points on just four shots in the first. The Raptors weren’t closing out effectively on shooters, allowing the Pacers to shoot 7-for-12 from downtown in the frame as they built that 14-point lead.
The Raptors picked it up in the second, getting the lead down to seven on a couple of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson free throws. But Toronto’s cold shooting continued: the team was 2-for-19 from downtown in the half. The Pacers quickly extended the lead up to 15 and looked poised to run away with it, but an Ibaka three, a Terence Davis drive-and-dish to Hollis-Jefferson and an OG drive kept them close, and the Raptors — amazingly, all things considered — had the deficit down to 10 by the half.
There was almost as much action on the sidelines as there was on the court in the first two quarters. Nick Nurse, unhappy with the officiating, picked up a technical foul — after deliberately walking away from a confrontation with an official. It looked odd in the moment — Nurse was looking to defuse the situation by walking away — but he’d been on the officials all game long at that point, and they’d probably had enough. Nurse continued the, ahem, dialogue all night, even after the final buzzer, and might end up getting a call from the league office.
In the second quarter, after a questionable foul call on Lowry under the Pacers’ basket, Lowry ended up out of bounds — and got chirped at by a Pacers fan. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson held Lowry back, and he walked away, and it wasn’t clear if the fan was escorted out or not; either way, it wasn’t a good look coming so soon after the Isaiah Thomas incident in Philadelphia.
Lowry led all scorers with 30. Ibaka had 23 points and nine rebounds, and Fred VanVleet finished with 21 points and 11 assists. Turner and TJ Warren led Indiana with 24 apiece; Sabonis had 17 boards and Holiday, 11 assists.
The Raptors will return home tonight and prepare for an early 12 noon start on Christmas Day against the Celtics.