After four incredibly tough and competitive games, the Eastern Conference first round series between the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors is all tied up at two games apiece, with the all-important game five taking place this Tuesday (6pm ET).
Both Indiana and Toronto have had their ups and downs this series but it was the most recent game that saw the seventh seeded Pacers break out of their scoring slump. Indiana led from the beginning, out-scoring the Raptors 28 to 16 in a game that ended 100-83, which was the biggest such victory for the Pacers in the series.
It was an all-around team effort by the Pacers, the first time in this series that the scoring responsibility was not squarely on the shoulders of Paul George (pictured). George, who is averaging a career high 26.3 points while shooting also a career high 44 percent from the floor in this first round, has been having one of the best series of any player in the postseason. However, as good as George has been, the Pacers have not and it wasn’t until this past game that the rest of the team was able to back him up offensively.
George scored 19, which was second to the tandem of George Hill and Ian Mahinmi, who netted 22 points on 18 of 25 shooting. Mahinmi led all players with a plus/minus of +20. Additionally, the center finished with a double-double adding 10 rebounds to his team high 22 points.
The Pacers benefited from the offensive flurry but this was only one aspect in which the team was better. Indiana led Toronto in all categories including rebounds, assists and free throw shooting percentage. Overall, it was a full team effort from the Pacers, something the team will need to continue to do going forward.
That said, the Raptors, just the game prior, scored a series-high 101 points in a 16 point victory, a mark that was the highest of the series until Indiana’s 17 point victory in game four.
In this game, the Raptors played pace and managed to create great looks and execute on their game plan. They too led from the first quarter on, barely allowing the Pacers to mount any sort of run. And also like the Pacers in their win, the series’ leading scorer was not the high scorer of the game. That honor belonged to the tandem of Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who netted 21 apiece. Demarre Carroll added 17.
Overall, the Raptors won the game on both offense and defense, holding the Pacers to 36 first half points and winning the battle of the boards.
The two remaining games weren’t blowouts but they weren’t exactly close either as in game one the higher seeded Raptors won by 10 and in game two, the Pacers won by 11. It is the only series this postseason to see all games decided by at least 10 points.
What this goes to show is that both of these teams are incredibly potent and have the ability to turn it on big time. However, when you need to turn it on, it also means sometimes you’ll be turned off and judging from this series, this has been exactly the case.
For Indiana, game four was a statement and an important one at that. After going down 2-1, losing the first game at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse aka their home court by 16 points, it looked like a foregone conclusion that Toronto would be wrapping up this series sooner rather than later.
However, the Pacers fought back and showed themselves to be a force to be reckoned with, one that certainly has a chance to take the series lead and best the second seeded Raptors in the first round best of seven.
So the biggest key for the Pacers is to build off of Saturday’s win and not let the somewhat unusual three day layoff cool them off. Now, this is easier said than done and often long rest periods, especially after big, emotional wins are never a good thing. The best thing for the Pacers is that their improved performance came off the heels of a lineup change, something that is sustainable.
The second biggest key is for the team to keep doing what they have been doing the whole series long as far as defense goes. Generally a better defensive team, Frank Vogel’s squad has been working its best this postseason. The team has held DeRozan and Lowry to a combined 30.8 shooting percentage from the floor which is in fact the worst of any NBA backcourt according to ESPN. Save for game three in which the duo combined for 42 points, DeRozan and Lowry have basically been non-factors, something that bodes well for the Pacers and not at all for the Raptors. Toronto will need these two to heat up if they hope to come away with the win, their first in the postseason since 2001.
As for the Raptors, offensively, they need to find some consistency. This starts with DeRozan and Lowry but trickles down to the rest of the lineup as well. Toronto is shooting well under their season average and hasn’t looked at all like the team which actually gave the Cleveland Cavaliers some competition for the top seed in the East.
Other than its own offense, Toronto has got to find a way to stop George. While he was not the only scorer in the game four blow-out, George is still the go-to man. The Raptors need to find a way to channel their regular season selves as that team held George to just 16.3 points in their four meetings and just 30.8 percent from the floor. George has been averaging just under 10 points above that in the most recent four games between the teams.
Our Preview’s Pacers vs Raptors Game 5 Betting Picks
These Raptors are a much better team than the ones of the past but that demon of early playoff exits is there. The longer this series goes, the more likely those demons of the past are going to emerge and are going to exist to torment the Raptors. It’s no doubt part of the reason why game four turned out the way it did.
- Looking at the shape of the USA sportsbooks’ spread, this preview’s recommended betting pick is to bet on the Indiana Pacers + 7pts @ -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.