There aren't a lot of tougher losses to take on than ones like tonight. The Indiana Pacers had tonight's game won and literally threw it away. Leading by four with 10 seconds to go, Indiana allowed the Toronto Raptors a quick bucket, and as Lance Stephenson began to dart down the floor, David West's dangerous inbounds was intercepted by Rudy Gay, setting up a Amir Johnson tip with less than a tenth of a second to force overtime.
In the overtime period, the Pacers fought back from a four-point deficit to take a lead, but weren't able to get the stops to stay up, with a couple of costly turnovers setting Toronto up with under ten seconds and Gay hitting the game winning jumper over Paul George to seal the win when George's final attempt bounced off the rim. Indiana was an inbound pass away from winning, but these things happen. The Raptors were in the game all night, the Pacers weren't able to put them away despite holding them at arms' length through the first three quarters.
But a terrible start to the fourth quarter made it the game it was trying to be all night, the Pacers finally seeming to succumb to their four games in five nights stretch. Well, is that a legitimate excuse? About as much as the seemingly inconsistent whistles in the second half, meaning enough to probably deserve a mention, but not enough to be more than one of many reasons the Pacers weren't able to put this one away earlier.
Indiana allowed 17 offensive rebounds which Toronto used to pile up the points. They committed 19 turnovers, leading to 22 Raptors points. They missed nine free throws, shooting 19-28 for the night. The Raptors looked like a much different team from the early season matchups; Rudy Gay gives them a late game option, scoring 15 of his team high 23 in the fourth quarter and overtime, also allowing DeMar DeRozen to open up, scoring 22 points with 15 in the first half.
For the Pacers, David West led the way with 30, helping to make amends for his inbound and overtime turnover, but Indiana had done enough to win the game until that inbound turnover, making it incredibly difficult to not look at West as the reason the Pacers took on the loss. They made it a game in OT, but the air seemed to be let out of the game when Gay came up with the steal. It was just that kind of night, unfortunately.
Paul George followed up with 26, with 18 in the first half, hitting a couple of huge three pointers in the fourth quarter. George also had 14 rebounds, and had Gay on lock down for the third time until he began to get some rolls in the fourth that opened things for him. George's defense on Gay late was well-ranged, but the good defense was simply beat by better offense tonight, including on Gay's game winner.
George Hill had just nine, most notably missing two crucial free throws as part of a night he wasn't a big part of the offense, including losing the ball late in the OT period to give Toronto the ball in return. Roy Hibbert followed a really impressive showing against Philly with a lackluster 6 & 3, going 3-9, but coming up on the defensive end at the times when Indiana was actually able to come up with a stop. Hibbert wasn't a big part of the offense, a fault of everyone when going up against Andrea Bargnani.
Lance Stephenson had 11, making some nice plays, including one of the late big time three pointers. The bench provided some decent minutes, with Orlando Johnson making some pretty nice plays as part of his three point, three rebound night. Ian Mahinmi had six, but was saddled with four turnovers, fighting with Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas throughout the third quarter. In fact, Valancuinas's play really showcased a more physical Raptors team than the one Indiana had faced at the beginning of the year.
While they may be a few steps too far out of the playoff picture, they're a team that looks like they might actually have an identity to go with, which makes them a threat moving forward in the regular season, including when the two teams meet up against in Toronto on March 1. In the meantime, despite the difficult loss, it doesn't take away from the impressive week the Pacers had in sweeping their back-to-back-to-back and doing everything to win except win tonight.
It may snap their five game winning streak and 15-game home streak, but they're still in first place in the Central and third place in the conference. The team will get a well deserved couple of days off before hosting the Brooklyn Nets, fresh off of getting waxed by Washington, on Monday.