Takeaways: Raptors give one away in blowout loss to Pacers

Lance Stephenson hit an uncontested layup at the end of the game and the Indiana Pacers crushed the Toronto Raptors.

File this one under: preventable.

The Toronto Raptors led Indiana by as many as 19 points on Tuesday night but couldn’t answer Paul George or the Pacers’ second-half shooting performance, giving away a 108-90 loss on the road.

Here’s what went down in a game the Raptors would swiftly like to forget:

Pacers catch fire from deep

The Pacers shot 9-of-13 on three-pointers in the second half and surged to an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter that the Raptors were never able to bounce back from. George himself was 5-of-10 on the game en route to a game-high 35 points, hitting a barrage of off-balance daggers down the stretch.

“That’s the power of the three,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “You let a team like that feel good about themselves and that’s what happens. A guy like Paul George sees the ball go in and it can be hard to stop it.”

For their part, the Raptors made just five threes all game and shot just 21.7 per cent from beyond the arc, DeMarre Carroll (3-of-5) was the only Raptor with more than one triple.

Raptors lose but show plenty of fight—(almost) literally

With his team up 15 points and around six seconds left in the game, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, who was playing his first home game with Indiana since signing last week, went in for an uncontested layup instead of dribbling out the clock.

Needless to say, it was a callous act that wasn’t well-received by the Raptors.

DeRozan immediately approached Stephenson and got in his face, flanked by P.J. Tucker, who had been jawing with Stephenson (a world-class agitator) throughout the game.

Unlike Wizards guard Brandon Jennings’ misplaced outrage at Warriors big man JaVale McGee, who heaved a three-pointer in the waning seconds of a blowout as the shot clock expired (he had no choice but to shoot, or be called for a turnover), Stephenson’s move was a pretty transparent act of poor sportsmanship, if you’re into that whole live-by-the-code kind of thing.

“I thought it was bush-league,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the game. “We know who [Stephenson] is, we know what he stands for. I thought our guys acted in the proper way.”

As Stephenson headed back toward the Pacers bench, DeRozan gave him a shove and Tucker became heated. Tucker advanced toward Stephenson and was soon joined by an animated Serge Ibaka and Carroll (at one point each had to be held back by teammates and team security). Stephenson walked away—he didn’t want any of that—and waited in the tunnel as double-technical fouls were issued on he and DeRozan.

Ibaka, Carroll and Tucker are living up to their billing as bona fide tough guys the likes we’ve rarely seen in Toronto since Charles Oakley wore a Raps jersey—and the most bad-ass collection of enforcers the Raptors have ever had at once, per Elias.

It was a jerk move from Stephenson, who was merely doing exactly what he was brought back to Indiana to do—infuse life and attitude in a team that has been free-falling out of the playoffs and in desperate need of a lift, whatever form that may take. The Pacers pass the Miami Heat and temporarily(?) take over eighth place with the win.

Star Wars

During the third quarter we were treated to a good ol’ fashioned showdown between DeRozan and George.

The two traded buckets during the Pacers’ comeback. At one point, DeRozan had scored 16 straight for the Raptors and ultimately dropped 20 of his team-high 27 points in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, 18 of George’s 35 points came in the third quarter. Ultimately, DeRozan watched from the bench as the Pacers went on an 11-2 run to begin the fourth quarter and never looked back.

Second-unit shined in limited minutes

In the first half, the Raptors bench unit of Delon Wright, Norman Powell, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Jakob Poeltl were impressive on both ends of the floor. The group played like they’d been together for years as the Raps extended a healthy lead. On one possession Poeltl grabbed a contested defensive board then shot an outlet pass to Wright, who caught the ball in stride and fired a half-court laser to Tucker in the corner for a three-pointer that put the Raps up 15.

During the second quarter Poeltl and Wright looked rock-solid, continuing to provide the club with a steady and somewhat surprising boost off the bench.

On another possession late in the quarter, Wright pump-faked atop the three-point arc, patiently waited for the defence to collapse, and calmly cut through the lane and dished to a cutting Poeltl, who was around the glass and scored eight points in just 11 minutes of action. That open layup gave the Raptors their largest lead at 19.

When the starters returned to the floor before halftime, the Pacers went on an 8-2 run to close out the first half.

By the second half, the bench unit watched from the sidelines as the Pacers came back to take a 58-57 lead with 5:47 to go in the third quarter. Finally, Tucker checked in with Patterson (who missed at least three open looks at corner threes). Poeltl/Wright checked back in at 2:44 left in the third but were on a short leash as the game’s intensity grew.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the second unit, and Poeltl/Wright in particular, during the playoffs. We’ll probably see a substantial drop in minutes and usage (sure enough, as this game took on a playoff tone Casey went with his veterans down the stretch), but they’re likely proving their place in the Raptors’ future plans.

Supporting casts make the difference

While the bench and supporting cast helped extend the Raptors lead in the first half, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around they were nowhere to be found.

Behind DeRozan’s team-high 27 points, the next-highest Raptors scorer was DeMarre Carroll with 11, while Jonas Valanciunas and Cory Joseph each scored 10. Serge Ibaka nabbed 10 boards, but had one of his worst shooting performances as a Raptor, going just 3-of-13 from the field and 0-of-6 from deep.

Meanwhile, while George was putting on a show, his teammates stepped up to ensure it wasn’t in vain. Jeff Teague finished with 20 points, including the dagger late in the fourth, while Thad Young was solid down the stretch and wound up with 15 points and 11 boards (six of them on the offensive glass). Stephenson scored all 12 of his points in the final frame.

Elsewhere in the NBA, the Washington Wizards erased a double-digit deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 118-111 and tie Toronto for third in the East (the Raptors own the tie-break advantage).

The Raptors get to move on with a game Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons.

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