Raptors down 76ers, will meet Pacers in playoffs
Encouraging performance by Carroll
The Toronto Raptors still have one game left in the regular season, a meaningless contest in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. For all intents and purposes, the playoffs started for the Raptors on Tuesday evening.
The Raptors took care of business in their final home game of the regular season, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-98. More importantly, with Indiana winning in New York against the Knicks and the Pistons losing at home to Miami, the Raptors are now guaranteed to play the Pacers in the first round, which kicks off on the weekend.
In both of the last two seasons, the identity of the their first-round opponent was a mystery until the final day of the season. Now, the Raptors get a small head start on the scouting process.
Preparing for George, Ellis
"We can start preparing for it. We've got a team coming in in the playoffs that's really good," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said after the game. "Paul George is unbelievable. Monta Ellis is unbelievable. George Hill is unbelievable. They've got some good bigs. We've got to start preparing for them. We've got one more game, and then we've really got to lock in."
Added coach Dwane Casey: "They're a good team, a team that's been there before. Paul George is one of the elite players in the league."
The Raptors won three out of the four regular season meetings between the two teams, including both games at Air Canada Centre. Most encouragingly, DeMarre Carroll looks ready to contribute in the playoffs, even if it is at a lower level than the Raptors anticipated when they signed him in July.
Carroll looks ready for playoffs
Carroll played in his third game since missing 42 straight because of arthroscopic knee surgery. His 21 minutes Tuesday were the most he has played since his return, including several in the third quarter that had him as the team's de facto power forward alongside the Raptors' other four starters. From the time he entered the game in that frame, the Raptors went on a 25-6 run, turning a close game into a blowout.
Carroll ended with eight points and finished with a game-high plus-minus of 30 — Carroll's favourite statistic, he said. Carroll felt so good that he asked the Raptors' management to play in Brooklyn all Wednesday. He said he was turned down.
"I've got to respect what they say," Carroll said. "Sometimes as an athlete you really don't think. I guess I wasn't thinking, they said.
"It just felt good to be able to get out there, especially with some of the guys who start, get my feet wet."
The series against the Pacers will necessitate Carroll's health. In George, the Pacers have one of the most dynamic wing players in the league. He is averaging 23.2 points per game. In four games against the Raptors this year, George averaged only 16.3 points per game on 30.8 per cent shooting from the field.
"Love it," Carroll said of the matchup against the Pacers. "Playing against Paul George, one of the top players in the league, it's not my first rodeo against him. I played against him in Atlanta. It's going to be great to go out there and compete and play at a high level. It's a great feeling.
"Back in training camp, this is what you practice for every day. It's a great opportunity for us, and we just have to be ready to take advantage of it."
Norman Powell scored 18 points to lead the Raptors against the 76ers. Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson did not play, as Casey opted to rest them. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were limited to 26 and 22 minutes, respectively.