- PG: George Hill
- SG: Monta Ellis
- SF: Paul George
- PF: Myles Turner
- C: Ian Mahinmi
Indiana Pacers vs. Toronto Raptors Game 6 Preview
The Toronto Raptors head back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night, where they prepare to battle the Indiana Pacers in what could be the final game in their first round Eastern Conference NBA playoff series.
Toronto was expected by many to storm in and control this series throughout, but Indiana had other plans, taking a 1-0 series lead and then tying things back up in game four, 2-2. The Pacers looked to be on the verge of taking over the series in game five, when Paul George got red hot and dropped 39 points in a losing effort.
It wasn’t your normal loss for the Pacers, though. George paced a strong Indiana effort that had the Pacers up 90-87 going into the final stanza. It was in the fourth quarter where the Pacers weren’t good enough, as they got out-scored 25-9 and melted down at Air Canada Centre.
Can the Pacers bounce back at home and force a game seven back in Toronto, or will the Raptors do as they probably should have done all along, and close this series out before it gets any more dangerous?
Indiana was so close to total control in this series they could taste it, as even with a late-game collapse, they still had a chance to force overtime. Paul George passed up a shot with time on the clock and Solomon Hill’s wide open three from the wing was good – just a hair too late.
It’s make sense for the Pacers to crumble after being so close, but they’re back at home in game six and have already earned two impressive wins against a Raptors team that at times really hasn’t resembled the strong 2-seed they were built up to be.
Unfortunately, just like we all imagined going into this series, it continues to be a battle between a one-man show in Paul George and the Raptors, who have exhibited better team play than Indiana at both ends. In Indiana’s two wins, they scored exactly 100 points, while stepping up their game defensively. Throughout the series, PG-13 has been a constant force and the key beacon for Indiana’s at times touch and go offense.
While George absolutely needs to show up for the Pacers to have a chance in game six, the bigger key may by Indiana’s defense. The Pacers are unsurprisingly 0-3 against Toronto in this series when giving up 91+ points, while all three of their losses also including themselves scoring 99 or fewer points. Balance is ultimately the key for Indiana as they try to avoid elimination in game six.
The Pacers figure to continue fighting with the same lineup they’ve used in each of the past two games. The rookie Myles Turner gives them energy on both ends, while Mahinmi hopes to be a little less banged up (back). Monta Ellis may be the real key for Indiana, as he’s failed to score even 10 points in each of the last three games, after opening up the series with 15 in each of the first two contests. If he struggles yet again to produce offense for the Pacers, Paul George may be forced to shoulder more heavy lifting.
|4/26/16||at Raptors||Lost 102-99|
|4/23/16||VS Raptors||Win 100-83|
|4/21/16||VS Raptors||Lost 101-85|
|4/18/16||at Raptors||Lost 98-87|
|4/16/16||at Raptors||Win 100-90|
The Raptors got started slow out of the gates in this series, but ever since dropping game one at home, they’re 2-0 at Air Canada Centre and 3-1 in this series. Between them and the Pacers, they’re also the only of the two to win back to back games in this series.
Both are encouraging developments for a Toronto team that has really struggled offensively against Indiana (topped 100 points just twice). That’s to be expected in a series that is heavily reliant on defense from both sides, but considering the Raptors are accustomed to putting up nearly 103 points per game on the year, it’s somewhat surprising that they haven’t had a true blow up game.
One reason for their offensive struggles had been the shaky play of star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who until game five had ripped off more than even 14 points in a game just once in the entire series. DeRozan is routinely counted on to produce serious offense (23 points per game during the regular season), yet he was turning up lame at the worst time. The good news is he finally found his form in a huge game five performance, where he nearly matched Paul George’s huge scoring outburst with a strong 34-point barrage of his own.
DeRozan’s breakout performance could be the turning of the tide heading into game six, but judging by his previous performances in this series, it’s not a guaranteed trend to continue. Needless to say, if Toronto is to end this series on Friday in Indiana, the Raptors may need big games out of Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll.
Carroll really has only shown up offensively for one game in the entire series, while Lowry has been just as shaky as DeRozan, posting just one game over even 18 points despite putting up 21 points per game during the regular season. Perhaps it will be Lowry’s turn to shake off Indiana’s gritty defense and push Toronto to a series-clinching win.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto made the switch at the four spot with Luis Scola giving the starting unit next to nothing, but inserting Patrick Patterson really didn’t change much. He does give Toronto’s offense a little more upside at the very worst, but it seems that the Raptors will just have to cope with not getting a whole lot (at least not consistently) out of the power forward position. Everyone else has been largely inconsistent throughout this first round series, but Toronto has also received at least one strong showing from each of their starters.
|4/26/16||VS Pacers||Win 102-99|
|4/23/16||at Pacers||Lost 100-83|
|4/21/16||at Pacers||Win 101-85|
|4/18/16||VS Pacers||Win 98-87|
|4/16/16||VS Pacers||Lost 100-99|
Indiana shocked with the game one win in Toronto, but hasn’t won in Air Canada Centre since in this series. Toronto continues to dominate this series in general, specifically in 2016, where they’ve won three of the last four in the series, as well as five of the seven meetings this year.
Matchup: Raptors vs. Pacers
|Win/Loss||56-26 (24-17 away)||45-37 (26-15 at home)|
The numbers game hasn’t yielded much logic when we look at Toronto’s and Indiana’s offense, as both teams put up 102+ points per game with regularity during the regular season, yet we’ve seen either team top 100 points just four total times in five games. We haven’t seen a single game where both teams cracked 100 points, while the highest score was 102 by the Raptors in game five.
That has led to an obvious defensive battle, where Toronto has leaned on their superior regular season defense to grind Indiana down (twice holding the Pacers below 90 points). Toronto has the edge there, but the Pacers have not allowed themselves to be pushed around by any means. The two squads match up very well and for all of the hype of the potential impact of DeMarre Carroll, he nor anyone else has really slowed Paul George down. It’s the rest of Indiana’s offense that hasn’t come to play consistently.
Preview & Predictions
This series started in a fashion where your mind quickly went to Indiana upsetting the Raptors, but since it’s looked like Toronto’s series to lose. The Raptors have really buckled down defensively lately, giving up more than 100 points just once to the Pacers since their game one defeat, and also cranking out slightly more efficient offense in the process.
Truth be told, Toronto won games two and three on sheer defensive effort, while game five was all about the resurgence of DeMar DeRozan and Toronto refusing to quit at home. Their trademark defense was huge in allowing just nine points in that fateful fourth quarter, while their defense was just good enough to force Indiana in a late shot on the final play of the game.
More than anything else, Toronto had set out to make the Pacers beat them beyond Paul George, and Indiana hasn’t been able to answer. George has been good enough for two solid wins and really almost did enough to take a 3-2 series lead, but his teammates have left him hanging far too often. A woeful series out of Monta Ellis and simply not enough from the bench has Indiana worming into a hole heading into game six.
For Indiana to extend this series, they need to keep up their defensive intensity, have a huge game out of PG-13 yet again and finally get some extra offense from Ellis and their other role players. I can see Paul George giving his all in another pic scoring effort at home, but the rest is no guarantee. The same goes on the other side, as DeRozan finally stepped up in game five and it would only be fitting for Lowry and Carroll to do the same to cap this series.
The reality is the Raptors were the favorite going into this series, and while they can’t win 4-1 like we expected them to, they can still prevent a dangerous game seven from happening. Indiana has proven to be a very dangerous team due to their superstar and strong team defense, but they’re chief ingredient they lack is a second go-to scorer. Toronto has endured the same issue for much of this series, but if Lowry and Carroll can actually show up, they should be able to buck that problem and gear up for the second round of the playoffs.
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