The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors went back and forth in their season debuts, but it was the Raptors who had just a little extra late, dropping the Pacers to 0-1, the first 0-1 of Frank Vogel's tenure. The Pacers came out sharp, controlling the game defensively and getting out in transition to open up a 16-point lead in the second quarter, but despite making a good first impression, the second half proved a much different story.
The Raptors found a rejuvenated energy out of the half, blitzing Indiana 35-23 in the third to take control of the game. A series of bad decisions by Indiana opened up an 8-0 run by Toronto in the opening minute of the fourth, leading Indiana to fall behind by 12 out of the gate. A four point play by Terrence Ross proved the crux in that opening minute, something the Pacers spent a majority of the quarter trying to make up.
Indiana did manage to close the gap at 95-95 with 2:47 left in the fourth, but DeMar DeRozan responded with a big three point play to push Toronto back ahead. Paul George returned the favor, taking it to the rim for an and one opportunity of his own, but missed his only free throw of the night to keep Indiana down a point. DeRozan capped his 25 point night on the following possession, drilling a tough jumper to key a 7-0 run that led Toronto to the 106-99 victory.
George had seven of his 17 in the fourth, but as a whole, really struggled offensively, shooting 4-17. Not only did George not have his stuff, but a lot of missed jumpers contributed to the bad night from the floor. Given George's preseason performance, it was a bit of a surprise to see him go 180 the way he did tonight, but he did manage to make impacts in other areas, shooting 9-10 from the line and dishing eight assists, leading the team in rebounding with 12 boards.
Rebounding may prove to be a real issue for this Pacers team after all. They rebounded well early, but it felt like most of their boards came from sheer effort, something that didn't follow them into the second half when a suckerpunched Raptors team regained their composure and began to take it to the Pacers. In the end, Toronto outrebounded Indiana 50-40.
Much of that difference was made up due to Indiana's poor shooting. The difference between the two teams across 48 minutes was that while they both shot under 40% in the first half, only the Raptors recovered to up themselves to a respectable 45% as Indiana staggered their way to 37.2% on the night. The Pacers allowed just 37 first half points, but Toronto came away with 69 in the second half.
Free throw attempts and fast break opportunities helped Toronto in the second half as well. Indiana outscored Toronto 10-1 in the first half in fast break points, but just 10-9 in the second half. And after a horrid start from the line, the Raptors turned in an impressive second half showing, outscoring Indiana from the line, who saw their solid night from the charity stripe dip late.
On one hand, the shooting woes of George, coupled with a 3-11 night from Monta Ellis could give Indiana hope that the team will improve as they improve, but while they won't shoot 25% combined every night, they also won't dish 14 combined assists every night. The biggest contributor off of those assists was George Hill, who hit five of seven three point attempts for his team high 19 points. The Pacers actually shot a respectable 39% from deep, but only Hill and C.J. Miles (with four as part of 18) contributed to all nine of Indiana's threes.
The biggest issue for Indiana may come from their shaky big rotation. With Myles Turner out tonight (and still a ways off from big minutes), Indiana relied heavily on the Ian Mahinmi/Jordan Hill combo, which proved occasionally problematic between a lack of offensive punch in Hill's case and foul trouble in the case of the two of them. Mahinmi ultimately fouled out in 25 minutes withi 10 points and eight boards, lending time to Hill, who struggled on both ends of the floor, coming away with an eight and eight night of his own.
The small ball lineup for the Pacers had some issues tonight as well, not so much from the bigs, but in how to deal with Indiana's small backcourt of George Hill and Ellis. Ellis picked up two quick fouls against DeRozan, forcing an adjustment in Indiana's favor, while in the second quarter, Ellis playing the point guard spot also helped Indiana as they pushed their lead to 16.
Rodney Stuckey looked relentless in his in ability to attack the rim as he led the bench with 16 points, but at the same time didn't have much on his jumper, which became a reliant part of his game as the night wore on. Chase Budinger struggled mightily in his debut, looking completely out of sync with 0 points on 0-4 shooting. Joe Young also made his NBA debut in a brief two minute stint, quickly attacked and dispatched of by DeRozan.
The Pacers have a quick turnaround as they prepare themselves for their home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night. The Grizzlies will be looking for redemption themselves after they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Cleveland Cavaliers, losing their home opener 106-76.