Following their Game 1 loss at home on Saturday, most intelligent NBA people said there was no way the Toronto Raptors would drop a second one heading back to Indianapolis. As it turns out, those people proved their intelligence by being right.
In Game 1, the Pacers were able to get Jonas Valanciunas into foul trouble early, which allowed Myles Turner to really explode as he found his playoff motor in the second half. This time, though, Valanciunas was the team’s best player, putting up 23 points and 15 rebounds to help fuel the Raptors’ win and even out the series heading back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday.
There really wasn’t anything Indiana could do with the big guy, which was the case in Game 1 too before he got into his foul issues. This was supposed to be the time for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to shine as stars and lead this team, but through two games it’s been Valanciunas turning the tides of the series.
DeRozan and Lowry, for what it’s worth, both had unimpressive games for the second outing in a row. They combined to shoot 3-of-18 in the first half, and even though they improved in the second half, they’re going to need those guys to shine a lot more than they have so far in this series if they hope to stick around in the playoffs for any extended period of time. Let’s hope it’s just jitters.
Defensively, the Raptors knew they had work to do after some of the offensive explosions the Pacers displayed on Saturday. In response, Toronto went with a change in the starting lineup – inserting DeMarre Carroll to try and slow down Paul George, who scored 33 points in Game 1. It didn’t work, at least not in regard to George, because he was still the team’s best player throughout the night and hung 28 on Toronto despite their extra defensive attention.
Outside of George, though, the Pacers really couldn’t get much help. Monta Ellis dropped in 15, but no Indiana bench players cracked double digits, showing why offensive inconsistency was such a concern for them heading into a series against a team with so many offensive weapons.
Looking ahead to Game 3, Indiana needs to get their frontcourt some rest (both Turner and Ian Mahinmi left at various times to deal with back soreness) because somebody on that frontline needs to shut down Valanciunas. For Toronto, it looks like they can allow George to get his points as long as they can keep the rest of the Pacers under wrap.
The team that wins Game 1 of a first-round playoff series wins that series 77 percent of the time, but road teams that win Game 1 and lose Game 2 are only 14-21 in winning the series, so there really is no statistical trend to consider here. Indiana stole away homecourt advantage, and now they’ll get to defend it with the next two games played on their turf.
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