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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Indiana Pacers

Shorthanded Raptors sputter in fourth, lose to Pacers 118-104

The Raptors couldn’t keep pace with the Pacers’ perimeter bombs in the fourth, but their defense and effort regression cost them the game in the end.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

At least it wasn’t as bad as the OKC Thunder loss.

For a bit, it looked like coach Nick Nurse and his Toronto Raptors had enough to get a win against the Indiana Pacers, but whatever worked for the Raptors in the first half felt like an illusion as they got run off the gym by the Pacers in the second half, dropping their third game in four, 118-104.

Life was already tough without Pascal Siakam, and the Raptors were also without Fred VanVleet for tonight’s game. It pushed Nurse to go with an even more unconventional lineup, inserting Otto Porter Jr. and Thaddeus Young into the starting lineup. The starting unit showed adequate defense and effort, a night-and-day difference compared to the Thunder game.

O.G. Anunoby led all scorers with 26 points but only managed to get one steal and coughed up four turnovers, mostly on the same play. The Raptors wouldn’t be in this game for most of the game if not for Young, who turned back the clock by seven years, milking the post-up moves en route to 15 points. Chris Boucher added 19 points and seven rebounds but only had four points in the second half, zero in the fourth.

Dalano Banton bounced back, putting up 14 points and two three-pointers, and Malachi Flynn had all 8 of his points in the first half but was largely ineffective in the second half. Gary Trent Jr. had a nightmare night, going 1-13 on mostly wide-open shots. He rode the pine and got the quick hook from Nurse tonight.

The Pacers shot 19-for-43 from the perimeter, compared to 7-for-35 by the Raptors, including 3-for-23 in the second half. Buddy Hield led the Pacers with 22 points and five three-pointers, while Miles Turner added 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The game is leg #2 of the Raptors’ visit to Canadians on the opposing team, and the young Canadians looked good. Andrew Nembhard got the start for the Pacers, netting eight points and three assists. Ben Mathurin had a quiet night, as he struggled to score against Anunoby. Still, he managed to put up 15 points, including three trifectas. Oshae Brissett, the Raptors’ old friend, was key on the Pacers’ late run, with all of his 8 points coming from the fourth period.

The Raptors got off to another rough start coming off the gates. Gary Trent Jr. could not buy a bucket, so why are we asking him to create his own shot over and over, going for 0-for-6 early? O.G. Anunoby and Scottie Barnes weren’t great either; the two combined for 2-for-7 and three turnovers in the first quarter, and the Raptors shot 6-for-20 from the field, including 1-for-9 from the perimeter after one. The only saving grace was the number of freebies the Raptors manufactured with their aggressiveness to get to the basket, grifting for 16 free throws while making 13. Chris Boucher provided the spark off the bench, scoring nine points, as the Raptors ended the first frame trailing the Pacers, 26-28.

The second period was a “send me back Saturday” for coach Nurse, where he milked the post-up game of Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. The two combined for 15 points, with Young’s rinse-and-repeat post-up move for a lefty hook. Malachi Flynn entered the game early in the second quarter and came up big with eight points as the Raptors racked up a 15-4 run to take a 45-34 lead. O.G. Anunoby came alive with timely plays. The Pacers responded with their perimeter bomb, but the Raptors managed to stay ahead, as Flynn made a layup at the buzzer, pushing the Raptors to a 65-52 lead to end the first half.

The Raptors opened up with Trent Jr. bricking two more open shots, and the Pacers kept raining perimeter shots, going for a 20-8 run to cut a 15-point lead to one. The offense was stagnant and flat, so Nurse turned to Boucher and Flynn early. Anunoby tried to carry the team, and Dalano Banton and Boucher’s back-to-back 3s gave the Raptors some breathing room, surviving the quarter, 90-82.

The Pacers continued their push to start the final frame, with Oshae Brissett sparking a 9-2 run to cut the Raptors’ lead to 92-91, provoking Nurse to put the starters back in with Malachi the lone reserve. Maybe it’s fatigue, but the Raptors’ defense completely deteriorated in this frame, as Isaiah Jackson got several dunks. At the same time, the Pacers easily manufactured additional possessions as the Raptors failed to secure the defensive boards. Brissett’s two free throws put the Pacers up for good at 100-99 with over six minutes left, and the Raptors flopped hard as the Pacers went on an 18-5 run to close the game.

It’s disappointing to see the Raptors fall apart in the second half, but it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Scottie Barnes hasn’t looked right for the last few games, especially on this back-to-back. He looks like a player playing with a flat tire, with his shot/drives having no lift and very little energy transfer from the lower body. Whenever there’s a miscue, like a blown/late rotation, back-cuts, and getting blown by, he’s involved in a bad way more often than not. Is he injured? If he is, then the Raptors should consider resting him. If he’s willing to play through whatever he’s going through, then Nurse should keep him accountable for his on-court play.

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