It is a make or miss league. Oftentimes, that phrase seems like an overused excuse for a team's own unacknowledged shortcomings, but in the case of the Pacers' sixth consecutive loss on the road it appears to be, at least in this case, a valid cliché. On the evening, the Blue and Gold committed just 10 TOs, assisted on 19 of their 24 made field goals, attempted 28 free throws, gave up just 8 points in transition, and scored over 90. Considering these factors alone, most would likely assume that the Pacers edged out the short-handed Raptors and left the Great White North with a victory. Yet, even with a vintage third quarter performance (scoring 29 points in the frame and knotting up the game at 75), the Pacers' efforts were not enough to overcome Toronto's late game push at the Air Canada Centre.
With less than five minutes to play in the contest, the Pacers took the lead at 94-92. From there on, it was all Raptors as Indiana allowed Toronto to close the game on a 10-0 run. While Lance Stephenson's two point blank lay-up attempts somehow managed to rim out, Jonas Valanciunas' contested midrange jumper was nothing but net. As the Raptors' late game looks all seemed to be bottom of the rim and down, the Pacers struggled to get the 50-50 balls and allowed Toronto to score 8 second chance points in the final frame:
"This is a playoff team," said Paul George. "Down the stretch they just got a lot of bounces that created second shots for them. If you give a playoff team another look or an opportunity they are going to knock you down."
To top off the Pacers' late game miscues, their road woes were apparently made worse after the game as they, once again, were forced to deal with travel delays:
Now looking at about a 2:30 am departure from Toronto. If we are lucky.— Chris Denari (@ChrisDenari) April 5, 2014
Spending the night in Toronto. Back to Indy with @Pacers sometime tomorrow.— Chris Denari (@ChrisDenari) April 5, 2014
Although the Pacers failed to make plays down the stretch and ended up being grounded in Toronto, perhaps the silver lining of the evening was that the Miami Heat also failed to add to their win column as they came up short in a double overtime battle with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With both of the East's top teams recording losses, the Heat remain atop the Eastern Conference by percentage points. Both teams will need to put their poor late game execution in the past, if either one wants to grab a victory in their upcoming games on Sunday. Coincidentally, the two teams fighting for Eastern Conference supremacy (Heat and Pacers) will each be matched up against teams (Knicks and Hawks) trying to make a late season push for the East's final playoff spot. As fans anxiously await to see which team gains or loses ground in the playoff standings, both the Heat and the Pacers are likely far more concerned with just continuing to get better and preparing themselves for what each team hopes will be a long run in the postseason.
For more on the Pacers' late season struggles and the battle for the East's top seed, make sure to check out the links: