The Indiana Pacers edged closer and closer to stopping the Toronto Raptors from eliminating them from the NBA playoffs Sunday night, but it wasn’t enough as the Canadian team took the series 89-84 in seven games.
By beating Indiana, the Raptors won their first postseason series since a five-game triumph over the New York Knicks in 2001, ending the NBA’s longest active drought between playoff series victories. Toronto had lost in the first round in the previous two seasons, including a Game 7 loss to Brooklyn in 2014 and a sweep to Washington last year.
DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 15 rebounds and 10 points.
Toronto won Game 7 despite scoring just 11 points in the fourth quarter, the lowest total by any Game 7 winner in the shot-clock era. “We stunk it up in the fourth quarter,” Coach Dwane Casey said. “It wasn’t pretty, believe me, but our defense carried us down the stretch.”
Indiana’s George averaged 27.3 points per game in the series, prompting Casey to say the Pacers’ All-Star guard reminded him of a recently retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. “Unbelievable,” Casey said. “This young man reminds of trying to prepare for a young Kobe Bryant back in the Laker days when I was in Seattle.”
Toronto had averaged nearly 19 turnovers in their three losses in the series, leading to a combined 70 points for the Pacers. Casey’s message to control the ball was received in Game 7, with Toronto making nine turnovers compared to Indiana’s 18.
“We got the monkey off our back, more than anything, from these past couple of of years,” DeRozan said. “It just feels good to get that off.”
Delighted with the outcome, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri strode on stage while Casey was giving his postgame press conference and planted a kiss on Casey’s head. A bemused Casey thanked his boss as Ujiri walked off applauding.
But the Raptors only have two days to celebrate because up next is a second round date with the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be another hard-fought series,” DeRozan said. “We don’t expect anything less.”
Coach Dwane Casey expects a big challenge trying to contain Miami star Dwyane Wade.
“We’ve kind of been watching them out of one side of our eye,” Casey said. “(Wade) is back to being a young guy.”