Thriving? That ship has long sailed.
In jeopardy of losing in the first round as the higher seed for the third straight year, the Raptors are about just surviving.
Tuesday, they did.
Toronto withstood a few extra gut-wrenching moments after Solomon Hill made a shot from beyond the arc at the buzzer, but the Raptors got what they badly needed – a 102-99 win over the Pacers on Wednesday to take a 3-2 series lead – when officials ruled Hill’s attempt came late.
Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 have won 85% of the time, but Toronto can’t feel comfortable. The Raptors were on the wrong end of a 3-2 comeback two years ago, when they dropped Games 6 and 7 to the Nets.
Could Indiana repeat history? It didn’t appear so late Wednesday.
The Pacers suffered a fourth-quarter meltdown worthy of Toronto, ceding most of a 23-2 Raptors run. Norman Powell (10 points, two steals, +16) hounded Paul George, who’d terrorized Toronto most of the night. Bismack Biyombo (10 points, 16 rebounds, +10) protected the paint. The Raptors, who trailed by 17, turned defense into offense at an expert level.
But George (39 points on 11-of-19 shooting, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block) remains the best player in this series. DeRozan (34 points on 10-of-22 shooting) got going only once George rested to begin the second quarter, and Kyle Lowry (3-for-11) continued to struggle. Toronto’s stars haven’t come close to keeping up with George.
The Raptors won because their role players answered the call, and the Pacers’ – namely Rodney Stuckey (1-for-10, three turnovers), Ty Lawson (one point, no assists, –18) and C.J. Miles (2-for-8, –19) – didn’t.
That’s a dangerous way to play.
But, at this point, the Raptors will claw out a win however they can.