Raptors vs. Pacers: Shutting down Paul George key for Toronto
Game 1 of Eastern quarter-final is Saturday or Sunday at the ACC
The Toronto Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, but many fans were watching more closely as the Indiana Pacers took down the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat the Detroit Pistons, locking up the bottom two playoff spots in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Toronto will begin its third consecutive playoff run this weekend against Indiana, a team it beat three of four times in the regular season. The first game will be Saturday or Sunday in Toronto, but the schedule won't be solidified until Wednesday evening. Game 2 will also be in Toronto before the series switches to Indiana for two games.
In their previous two seasons, the Raptors didn't know who they would be playing until the final day of the regular season. Though coach Dwayne Casey said he's been preparing the team for either of their potential rivals, they'll now have a few extra days to prepare for standout Indiana forward Paul George, a player Casey described as "one of the elite players in the league."
Shutting down George will be a focus for the Raptors, but it's a task they've been up for during the regular season, keeping him to an average of 16.3 points per game, notably short of his 23.2 on the entire season. George has also been nursing an ankle injury.
Here's a recap of the season series:
Oct. 28: Toronto 106, Indiana 99
The first meeting in Toronto saw the Pacers get out to an early start, opening up a 10-point lead in the first quarter which they would give up after half. In the third, the Raptors outscored the Pacers 35-23.
Jonas Valanciunas hit two free throws with under 37 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Dec. 14: Indiana 106, Toronto 90
In the Raptors' only loss to Indiana this season, they blew a big early lead. The Raptors opened up a 21-point advantage during the first half but allowed Indiana to go on a 39-4 run, led by Jordan Hill and Monta Ellis.
March 17: Toronto 101, Indiana 94 OT
The Raptors beat the Pacers for a second time, capped by a Patrick Patterson dunk with 36 seconds remaining in overtime and a few free throws down the stretch.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 56 points, split even at 28 each. Bismack Biyombo grabbed 25 rebounds.
April 8: Toronto 111, Indiana 98
In a game which saw Casey rest Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Luis Scola and DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors rookies took over for the third win over Indiana of the season, knowing the Pacers were a potential playoff match.
The Raptors were up by five at the end of the first and didn't look back.
Normam Powell netted a season-high 27 points, hitting 14 of 19 free throws and playing 41 minutes.