The Toronto Raptors steamrolled what’s left of the Indiana Pacers, but it did not happen without much fanfare. The Raptors were comfortably ahead, 66-38, with around four minutes left in the second quarter when the game had to be stopped due to an in-arena speaker catching fire. The stoppage lasted for about an hour, but the Raptors still cruised to a 131-91 win. The win, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss bumped the Raptors to the 6th seed.
Call it an “act of (basketball) gods,” but before the stoppage, it felt like we were on our way to see Precious Achiuwa drop 40, if not 50 points. He was on fire, notching 16 points on 4-for-4 shooting behind the arc until the stoppage. It’s a shame that Achiuwa finished with only 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists — tying his career-high in dimes.
The game-plan was simple for the Raptors: take advantage of their size matchup. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby took turns getting to the basket, and the rest followed suit. Heck, even Fred VanVleet backed down his man for a sweeping hook shot in the paint. Siakam finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Anunoby added 16 points, with most of the damage done in the first quarter.
Scottie Barnes added 19 points and seven assists, picking up the slack after the stoppage. VanVleet came back in street clothes after the stoppage, as the team decided to rest his balky knee.
Our old friend Oshae Brissett tried to put the Pacers on his back, putting up 21 points, eight rebounds, and four steals. Former Raptors 905 Justin Anderson added 18 points, but Troy Haliburton was held to 7 points, although he had 12 assists.
The Raptors shot almost 61% from the field, including 15-for-32 from behind the arc. If that’s not enough to illustrate the Pacers’ lack of defense, the Raptors also only coughed up the ball six times — with four steals coming from Brissett. The deficit was too big for the short-handed Pacers, and with an hour of stoppage, it looked like they just wanted to finish this road trip and go home.
The Raptors got to a hot start, taking advantage of Khem Birch’s size in the paint to take a 7-3 lead. However, the Pacers’ zone defense presented some problems for a few possessions. Fortunately for the Raptors, the Pacers’ “zone” was just a minor annoyance, as they figured out they could get what they wanted in the paint. It almost became a layup line for OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, who took turns getting to the cup, en route to 11 points each in the quarter.
However, the Pacers managed to hang around until midway through the 1st period. Old friend Oshae Brissett got to the basket at will, leading to his own 11 pt-quarter. The Raptors’ defense tightened up with the gradual insertion of Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young and Armoni Brooks. The Raptors attacked early and often in transition; it didn’t matter whether it was off makes, misses, or turnovers. The Raptors made three straight three-pointers to end the quarter, and an 18-16 game quickly became a 41-21 at the end of the period.
Achiuwa opened the second quarter En Fuego, hitting three straight trifectas (make it four straight, including his make last in the 1st quarter). Brissett tried to carry the Pacers, but he’s not getting help from his teammates on both ends of the floor. Speaking of Achiuwa, you know he is “feeling it” when he’s willing to give up the ball so that he can pop back to the perimeter, hunting for a pass. Otherwise, he would typically try to see if he can ISO if he’s got the ball inside the arc.
The Pacers looked broken at this point, as the Raptors were getting what they wanted in early transition. Exhibit A: VanVleet found Siakam, who established a deep post position in early transition. A developing story at this point was the second section of fans being evacuated due to a speaker catching fire. It was right behind the Pacers’ bench, but that distraction can’t be blamed for their poor showing so far.
Scotiabank Arena and the Raptors literally have caught fire - at least one section has been evacuated pic.twitter.com/GwI23xsBDy— Main Team (@MainTeamSports2) March 27, 2022
A sight to behold: Siakam drew the Pacers’ defenders but immediately found Thad Young streaking for an easy layup. A few possessions later, Brissett turned the ball over, and VanVleet got their fastbreak started, this time, finding Scottie Barnes for the 1001st point of his young career. It prompted coach Lloyd Pierce to call a timeout, as the Pacers were getting run out of the court, as the Raptors led 66-38 with 4:05 until halftime.
Pascal is so dangerous when he's at the top of their defense. He can easily get deep position on a leakout, and his size and passing makes him a difficult cover. #SharingIsCaring pic.twitter.com/NSlUMjn6Mk— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) March 27, 2022
Unfortunately, the game got suspended for an extended period, as the speaker in question posed a safety hazard, forcing the arena to be evacuated as the fire marshalls dealt with the situation. At this point, the only highlight over the next hour is Raptors PA Herbie Kuhn “shushing” the crowd as he tried to announce the evacuation orders. The players and officials had to go to their locker rooms, waiting to learn whether the game would be resumed later this evening or not.
At this point, we could neither confirm nor deny if Precious Achiuwa catching fire’s got something to do with the speaker burning:
Precious Achiuwa going NBA Jam on fire and the league (and speakers) can't handle it pic.twitter.com/NZbbhR7rSL— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) March 27, 2022
45 minutes later, we got an update from our buddy Jay Rosales:
Firefighters have rappelled down and are extinguishing the fire pic.twitter.com/q4pCsfoQ5E— Jay Rosales (@Rosalesaurus) March 27, 2022
The game would resume, and unfortunately for the in-arena fans, the game would have to be played in an empty arena. Given the lead and who they were playing, the Raptors also prioritized VanVleet’s health, and he was done for the night. His streak of two or more three-pointers ended tonight at 38 games, as no Rub-A535, Lakota, or Salonpas can ensure that VanVleet can get back in the game properly.
As expected, the Raptors played the rest of the second quarter, lacking their established rhythm. However, the Pacers failed to capitalize, and a late three-pointer by OG Anunoby closed the half at 74-46.
Armoni Brooks started for VanVleet to start the second half, but the Raptors’ stiff-looking offense saw him finish his shift without getting a shot up. He did, however, show several impressive quick, decisive, and spirited closeouts to contest perimeter shots. The Pacers started to hit their perimeter shots but could not bring the lead down lower than 23 points.
There’s not much to see for the rest of the second half, as it looked like the Pacers just wanted to get this game over with. The Raptors built a lead by as much as 36 points, and coach Nick Nurse was forced to go to his third-stringers less than four minutes into the final frame starting with Yuta Watanabe. The bench mob of the bench mob picked up the barrage, pushing the lead to 44 points via Watanabe’s three-pointer. Also, it was good to see Svi Mykhailiuk hit a three-pointer!
What’s really disappointing at this point is that the basketball gods probably deemed us not worthy to see Precious Achiuwa come away with his first “Jordan Challenge” game, as he was understandably stiff coming back, going 1-for-3 for the rest of the game.
Up Next: The Toronto Raptors host the Boston Celtics on Monday as they look to inch closer to the 5th seed.