Paul George overcame a slow shooting start, Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan never got things going, and the Indiana Pacers stole Game 1 of the Eastern Conference matchup Saturday afternoon.
For the Toronto Raptors, the loss saw them slide to just 1-8 all time in game 1’s of NBA Playoff series, never having won a Game 1 in the first round. The teams All-Star duo of Lowry and Derozan simply never looked comfortable, combining for just 25 points on 8-34 shooting from the field, as well as 1-10 behind the arc. For fans of the Raptors, the team will now walk the line and risk losing a third consecutive series where they had home-court advantage.
Regardless of their star’s struggles, Toronto was actually within reach almost the entire game, sitting within just four paints with just 3:29 remaining late in the fourth quarter. With 2:14 left, the team lost big man Jonas Valanciunas after he fouled out on a loose ball foul, leaving the Raptors without the man who had essentially carried them to a score of 90-82. Jonas, who finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards, would have to watch as he saw the time count down on a 100-90 loss for Toronto.
J-Val’s big performance on the boards wasn’t enough to overcome a magnificent performance from Indiana star Paul George. In his first playoff game since breaking his leg last offseason, George dropped 33 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks all on 12-22 shooting. Most of those numbers were put up in the second half, as PG-13 overcame a 2-9 start from the field in the first half. George’s big third quarter saw him put in 6-7 from the field, including a three 3-pointers.
Throughout that first half, the Pacers found themselves anchored by rookie center Myles Turner, whose 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 blocks kept the drive-happy Raptors away from the rim. Indiana’s defensive pressure was a theme throughout the game, holding Toronto to just 38 percent shooting and forcing 19 turnovers.
All year we’ve been forced to question whether this incarnation of the Raptors will be different than those of years past and find some playoff success. Falling to 0-8 in playoff openers certainly won’t do that for them, particularly when the team’s top players looked so uncomfortable from he swarming defense of Myles Turner and Paul George. Now with a Paul not named Pierce roasting their team, it might be time to sweat if you’re a Raptors fan.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) April 16, 2016
It’s a seven game series and DeRozan and Lowry are as good a backcourt tandem as you’ll find, but they’ll need to figure out a way to get it going in the playoffs or risk going home in the first round once again.