- Collison, Darren(12)
- Jefferson, Al(9)
- Joseph, Cory(2)
- Oladipo, Victor(7)
- Stephenson, Lance(20)
- Wilkins, Damien(1)
- Young, Thaddeus(9)
- Bogdanovic, Bojan(2)
- Turner, Myles(48)
- Young, Joe(33)
- Sabonis, Domantas(2)
- Poythress, Alex(1)
- Robinson III, Glenn(6)
- Bayno, Bill(2)
- Burke, Dan(3)
- Jones, Popeye(5)
- McMillan, Nate(13)
Five Things That Could Decide Pacers-Raptors
April 20, 2016
After two games and a 1-1 split, trends have started to emerge from the Pacers' first-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The series comes to Indiana as the Pacers look to put on a solid performance in front of their home crowd on Thursday and Saturday. Flip through this gallery to see five things that may just determine which team moves on to the second round.
1. Paul George Locked In
Through the first two games of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, Paul George has been nothing short of dominant on both sides of the ball. After scoring 33 points in Game 1, 27 of which came in the second half, PG poured in 29 in Game 2. Just as important as his offense, if not more so, has been his defensive activity when guarding DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors All-Star has made just 10-37 shots through the first two games of the series. While Toronto has sent a bevy of screens at George to try to free up DeRozan, PG has been sinking under the screens due to DeRozan's unreliable long-range shot. That has enabled George to keep the high-flying shooting guard in front of him, locking up his driving lanes and keeping him in a constant state of discomfort with the ball.
2. His Name Is Jonas
If it weren't for Jonas Valanciunas, there is a decent chance the Pacers would be leading the series 2-0 right now. But the Lithuanian big man delivered career nights in both Game 1 and Game 2. Simply put, Valanciunas has been a monster in the paint. His 19 rebounds in Game 1, and his 23 points in Game 2 have buoyed the Raptors while DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are still trying to find their groove.
Putting a body on Valanciunas sounds simple, but in practice it's proven much more difficult, especially with starting center Ian Mahinmi experiencing a lower back sprain which has made slowing down Valanciunas a tall order. Lavoy Allen could try stopping the big man, but Allen gives up three inches of height. Myles Turner is also an option, but Turner is still a rookie and has averaged 5.5 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign.
The best method for stopping Valanciunas, it seems, is to allow him to stop himself. Foul trouble has taken the big man off the floor for long stretches in both games. If the Pacers can contest loose balls, drive at his chest, and entice smaller players to draw charges against him, they may be able to frustrate the Raptors, forcing them to insert much more manageable (but still very good) Bismack Biyombo.
3. Keep the Score Low
The Pacers finished the regular season as the third-best team in defensive efficiency, and it's showed in the early going of their opening series. Indiana has held Toronto under 100 points and 43 percent or less in both contests, markers that typically correlate to Pacers wins. During the regular season, when the Pacers held their opponent under both of those statistics, Indiana was 23-3.
They lost Game 2, but should they put forth a comparable defensive effort during Game 3, the chances are that Toronto will not come out on the winning side of that formula again.
4. All Hands on Deck
Game 1's win featured impressive contributions from Solomon Hill, who hit 10 free throws; Myles Turner, who scored 10 in his Playoff debut; and C.J. Miles, who pulled down seven rebounds. In Game 2, the Pacers never seemed to find their shooting touch as a team. Aside from Paul George (29 points) and Monta Ellis (15 points), no other Pacers players scored in double-figures.
Furthermore, Indiana struggled to connect from deep, sinking just 4-of-20 3-point shots after having made 11-of-21 in Game 1. It's not that the Pacers will need to hit 50 percent of their threes, but they'll need more scoring from all over the floor. Normally reliable bench players like Rodney Stuckey and Ty Lawson, who have combined to go 7-of-21 so far, will look to get it going in front of the home crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
5. Who Handles The Ball?
Paul George has had tremendous success through the first two games of the series being a ball-dominant player. In the second half of Game 1, George showed that when the defense collapses, he can make them pay by finding his teammates. But in Game 2, George registered just one assist, and the team as a whole only had 13, their fewest since an early February meeting with the Lakers.
Following their loss to the Magic, the Pacers decided to give the lion's share of ball handling duties to Monta Ellis, and the team won seven of its next eight games. With PG hitting shots with a great deal of accuracy, it might make good sense to have Ellis, who has also played well, resume full control of the ball while searching for open shooters like George on the weakside.
When the Pacers share the ball, they win the game. During the regular season, the Pacers went 18-4 when they passed out 25 or more assists.