The Toronto Raptors’ ugly streak of losing every playoff opener in franchise history continued on Saturday afternoon, when they lost Game 1 of their first-round series at home to the 7-seeded Indiana Pacers, 100-90.
Toronto is now 0-for-8 in playoff openers, and coming off two consecutive first-round exits despite having won the Atlantic Division each of those years. This wasn’t the way they wanted to kick off the series.
Of course, it’s hard to get too bent out of shape considering the afternoon that Paul George had. After starting off the game slowly, George absolutely exploded offensively in the second half, scoring 27 points after the break to finish with 33 in the game. He also chipped in four boards and six assists, but it was his defense on DeMar DeRozan that really made the difference in the game.
Both DeRozan (5-19) and Kyle Lowry (3-13) struggled mightily from the field in Game 1, which is in part a testament to George’s defense, but also an indication of what will happen to the Raptors if at least one of their All-Star guards can’t find a rhythm offensively.
When George scores more by himself in the second half than DeRozan and Lowry combined for the whole game, there was no way Indiana was losing the game. The fact that Indiana also performed so well on the glass and got Toronto’s best rebounder (Jonas Valanciunas, who had 15 boards in the first half) in foul trouble certainly helped a lot in the second half, as well.
As a result, Myles Turner hauled in 10 rebounds despite admitting that the playoff atmosphere was a bit overwhelming at first. He’s an X-factor in this series. If he can play as well as he did throughout the series, Indiana could have a massive frontcourt advantage.
If George and Monta Ellis (15 points, only one turnover) hold up their end of the bargain, it’s going to be even harder.
The Pacers have had a hard time closing out games this year and have lost more than their fair share of nail-biters, but this time the offense and the defense were there to close out a tough playoff game on the road. They’ll look to steal away Game 2 in Toronto on Monday, though it’s hard to believe a team as good as the Raptors will drop a second straight game at home. They’ll come ready to fill in some buckets, as DeRozan himself said after Game 1, “I won’t go 5-for-19 every night.”
And he won’t. Toronto at least better hope he doesn’t, or else they could be facing the possibility of being upset in the first round for the third consecutive year.
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