The two greatest words in NBA are “game seven” and luckily for the fans, not one but two first round series have gone the distance. For this betting picks’ preview, we’ll focus on the second of the game sevens, between seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers and second ranked Toronto Raptors (8pm ET Sunday).
The Raptors were actually the team that came out stronger from the gate, opening game one with a 45-43 halftime lead. However, the Raptors, while they did keep pace with their first half scoring, were unable to keep up with the Pacers, who exploded for 57 second half points. On the road, game one went to Indiana.
Game two told a different story as the Raptors managed to hold on to their five-point halftime lead and grow it each quarter. Again, consistent with their own offense, Toronto held the Pacers to under 22 points in all but one quarter. The final score went in their favor 98-87.
Continuing to build off of this momentum from the strong victory, the Raptors dominated game three from the opening tip. The team went into the half with a 17-point lead, all but one of these points they managed to hold on to for the rest of the game. In the series’ biggest victory to that point, the Raptors topped 100 and defeated the Pacers by 16 points.
However, instead of keeping the pedal to the metal so to speak, the Raptors’ shooting went cold, and the pendulum began to swing in the direction of the Pacers. Indiana scored 57 first half point, their most of the series and added another 33 in the second half. The Raptors meanwhile managed just 83, including scoring 16 only in the first and third quarters.
With the series tied up at two games apiece, it headed back to Toronto where the Raptors pulled off a close victory in the only game of the series that was decided by less than 10 points. The two teams played a competition contest, neither really getting any sort of dominant lead until the fourth quarter. Indiana scored just nine points while Toronto had 25. Quite simply, the Pacers went bone dry and threw away a game that had been very winnable.
This meant going back home to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, down 3-2. It was win or go home for the Pacers but neither team really played like they wanted it out of the gate. Both teams, perhaps starting to feel the pressure and the length of the series kicking in, scored 22 points or fewer in the first two quarters. This was enough to give Toronto a four point lead going into the third quarter. However, something seemed to click at halftime as the Pacers came out on fire, quickly erasing that deficit and creating one of their own. Indiana scored 61 points in the second half while holding the Raptors to just 39. This resulted in a final score of 101-83, the 18 point victory being the largest in the series.
That brings us to game seven, which returns to the Air Canada Centre and where the journey to the NBA Championship will end for one of these two teams. For Indiana, their run so far has been somewhat of a surprise. For the Raptors, a loss would be a major disappointment, yet another blemish on the team that hasn’t gotten out of the first round since the early 2000s.
Solidly leading the way for the Pacers has been their star, Paul George, who leads all postseason players with his average of 27.5 points per game. George also leads the team with 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He averages about 38 minutes per game but has said recently that he is ready and willing to play all 48. That’s how much advancing means for the 25-year-old George who is endeavoring to get the Pacers back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Game six was vital for Indiana not only in their survival but in that it seemed to put their past behind them. The Pacers blew a 13-point lead in game five, something they had been known for doing the entire season. But they proved the ability to close out strong in game six, going on an 18-0 run and saving their season in the process.
Again it was George, who played the biggest role, recording a double-double with his 21 points and 11 rebounds. Additionally, he was a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Overall though, it was a full team effort for the Pacers who had all five of its starters score in double figures.
It might be another game like that for Indiana if they hope to defeat the Raptors and advance to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, for Toronto, the pressure is on. The team is in the midst of a 15-year drought of not having won a postseason series, which is the longest such streak in the NBA. Additionally, the Raptors have never won a best-of-seven series, having blown a 3-2 lead against Brooklyn in 2014. It occurred on Toronto’s home court, which is exactly what will be happening this Sunday.
Leading the way for the Raptors has been DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The tandem averaged a combined 40+ points during the regular season. However, in the playoffs, both DeRozan and Lowry have struggled, averaging only 15.8 and 14.3 points per game respectively. Not to mention, DeRozan has struggled to get to the line, which has only hampered his game and Toronto’s as a whole.
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers vs Toronto Raptors Game 7 Betting Picks Prediction
Something will have to change if Toronto hopes to stave off elimination and finally break through the first round of the playoffs. This is a good team and when they play at their best, are one of the best. They even challenged the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the year as the two teams jockeyed for top position in the East.
I’m inclined to lean toward the Pacers on this one, but ultimately I do think the Raptors will be able to vanquish their playoff demons. They were the second seed in the conference for a reason. But, don’t expect a blowout out of this one as both teams are fighting for their lives.