The Toronto Raptors have won a playoff series. Finally. It took them seven games, which isn’t something you usually see with a two-seed. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were bad throughout, but the players around them made up for an insanely inefficient display. And the Indiana Pacers? With this kind of talent around Paul George, this is as far as they’ll get, for now.
The Raptors won game 7, 89-84. They shot 38.2% from the field in this game. They shot 39.3% in the series. DeMar DeRozan took 32 shots (making 10 of them) to score 30 points. He was shooting 31.9% in the whole series. Kyle Lowry was actually better than usual by making 5-of-14 attempts, finishing with 11 points. He shot 31.6% from the field. Lowry and DeRozan were that bad, and still the Raptors made it through, now facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinal.
The Raptors won on offensive rebounds, inconsistent defense on their part (which got it right at the final moment), and doing a slightly better job of holding on to the ball. The Pacers were much better in most offensive metrics, including eFG (by almost 6 percentage points) and outscored the Raptors in the series, finishing with a slightly better offensive rating. That’s rarely seen in a playoff series that you lose. But Indiana struggled finding someone other than George to carry the torch for them.
The Raptors are counting on this win, which is something of an exorcism after so many years of chasing that playoff series win, and maybe a doorway to better basketball. But motivation and momentum aren’t enough in this case. Not with the kind of team Toronto are facing next, although the Heat don’t try to make life as difficult as the Pacers do. The Raptors once again have home court advantage, but it’s difficult viewing them as favorites when we’ve just seen them play bad basketball for almost seven games straight, only to make it through almost by default.
And the Pacers? They’ll have $30 million to spend in the offseason on making things around George better, without losing significant talent (Ian Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill hitting free agency). There are probably a contract or three the Pacers would love to trade off but will probably find difficult offloading. This season was proof of how building a team around George can work even with minimal talent. Imagine what happens if they get things right this summer. Not championship material, but a much more difficult force to deal with in the improving East.