This was supposed to be the year the second seeded Toronto Raptors finally notched their first playoff series victory in franchise history. Paul George had different ideas, scoring 33 points to go with his four rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Stifling defense on DeMar DeRozan held the Raptors swingman to a mediocre 5-19 shooting from the field, 1-7 of those attempts came while George was directly guarding the All-Star. DeRozan got no help from his fellow All-Star, Kyle Lowry, as Lowry shot 3-13 and gave the ball away six times.
A playoff return for the ages for the swingman hailing from Palmdale, CA, after missing the 2014-15 campaign after a gruesome injury during an exhibition outing with Team USA during the summer. It seemed like no one was able to stop him, leading to Indiana coach, Frank Vogel, calling his performance "awesome." How it'll roll over to game two will be defining. And it wasn't like Toronto didn't try to contain him, as he went 4-4 when guarded by DeMare Carroll, and 3-6 on DeRozan. He was 5-12 against other players/situations.
George's stifling defense, teamed with the Pacers shooting a solid 52.4% from three (12-22) gave the needed boost to take the road game. Monta Ellis went 3-4 aided by George's 4-5. Toronto needs to turn that around, though, Coach Dwane Casey thinks it was an abomination that won't occur again. "I don't think they're going to shoot like that again," said Casey.
Toronto needs to come out with some energy during the second game, tonight on NBAtv, and Lowry needs to show why he belongs in the mix of being among the league's best point guards. Six turnovers and 3-13 shooting won't cut it.
"This is not last year," Lowry insisted. "We're very positive, we're very confident."
The home court should be enough for the Raptors to even up this series before heading down to Indiana, and depending on which DeRozan/Lowry show up, this may be a blow out. But the George factor makes it hard to give it to Toronto, so I like Indiana here.