In a tale of two halves, the Indiana Pacers won them both against the Toronto Raptors, dominating as a pace and space team in the first half, and mucking things up in a way only the Pacers can get away with in the second to win Game 4 and tie the series 2-2 heading back to Toronto. Indiana never trailed in this game, bringing the fight from opening tip to final buzzer, topping the Raptors 100-83.
The frustrating thing about Indiana's Game 3 loss was knowing full well they could do better on this stage. But a quick 7-0 start for the Pacers helped set the tone for a much different type of effort. The Pacers jumped all over the Raptors and the numerous Toronto fans that made the trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana was fueled early and often by Ian Mahinmi, who had a career game (playoffs or otherwise), breaking out of his series-long funk to piece together a 22 point, 10 rebound double double.
Mahinmi entered the game shooting an abysmal 23% from the floor, partially due to shots not falling, but also in a big way due to being completely overwhelmed with Jonas Valanciunas, who entered action with a playoff high 40 rebounds in three games. Better effort on the glass early helped take away Valanciunas's rebounding impact early and often as he finished with just six rebounds, held to just two offensive boards.
Valanciunas was 6-7 from the floor for 15 points, but was not utilized thanks to the play of Myles Turner, entering the starting lineup in place of Lavoy Allen. Turner had just four points , but he and Mahinmi were big on the glass, pulling in eight combined offensive rebounds as the Pacers got the better of the Raptors on the glass for the first time in the series 43-40, including a 15-11 edge on the offensive glass.
But as big as the bigs were, it was the ball movement and turnovers that allowed Indiana to really capitalize on their energy. The Pacers led by 12 after one, blowing the game open in the second quarter to lead by as many as 25. The Raptors climbed to within 15 at the break, but when it wrapped up, Indiana shot 56% in the half, hitting five crucial three pointers.
Indiana assisted on 16 of their 21 first half field goals, all while torching the Raptors in points off turnovers, flipping the Game 3 script, outscoring Toronto 16-2 in the first half. George Hill was a crucial element of Indiana's success, allowing his aggressive persona to show up, scoring 22 points on the night on 9-11 shooting. His play allowed Monta Ellis to score seven in a positive way with three steals, though he was prone to flinging the ball all over the place for a team high three turnovers.
After a beautiful first half, the Pacers found themselves in a slugfest with the Raptors. Toronto would threaten to draw the game within single figures throughout the second half, but the Pacers defense would come up with key stops and timely turnovers to keep their own floundering offensive afloat. When the third quarter drew to a close, the Pacers drew even with the Toronto 16-16 in the quarter, a huge victory for a game that could've imploded on them.
Indiana didn't let the game get away early in the fourth thanks in large part to their second unit, who actually extended the lead in the early stages of the second quarter. With rotation changes pushing Turner into the starting lineup, shortening the overall rotation by cutting Allen's minutes, it was a victory for Indiana's bench, who got huge contributions from Ty Lawson and Solomon Hill especially.
Lawson had been a sieve in this series, but played much better in Game 4, coming up with three assists and a pair of steals in 14 minutes of action, including an inbounds steal he used to score two of his four points. Solo was active everywhere, scoring seven with three rebounds (two offensive), and three assists of his own. Rodney Stuckey fought his way to six points, and C.J. Miles had just four, but one included a last-second tip-in to end the third quarter.
This was all good news to Paul George, who struggled with his shot again tonight, shooting just 6-16 from the floor, but still coming up with 19 points thanks to another solid night at the stripe, going 6-7. The help flourishing around George allowed him to really zone in on DeMar DeRozan, who was held to just eight points on 4-15 shooting. DeRozan had six turnovers and zero free throw attempts.
On the other side of Toronto's back court, Kyle Lowry also struggled yet again with a 12 point, 4-12 shooting night before he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. For the first time all series, the Pacers appeared to have all the right answers for Toronto's playmakers, now allowing DeRozan or Lowry to get going, keeping Valancunias from being fed in the post, and holding series thorn Cory Joseph scoreless in 14 minutes and Patrick Patterson to just eight.
Indiana held Toronto to 36.5% for the game, down slightly from their 41% for the series. The Raptors were a woeful 8-30 from three point range, including a second half barrage of triple attempts from Luis Scola, who missed all four of his attempts. The only player Indiana couldn't get a handle on was DeMarre Carroll, who was 4-8 from deep for 12 points.
Good things have typically happened over the course of the season when the Pacers play aggressively and tonight was no exception. The Pacers tie the series up at 2-2, but guarantee themselves another home game in this series, which can either be used to clinch or extend the series depending on which Pacers team shows up in Game 5 at Toronto. Of course, with all four games having been decided by double figures, the answer may be clear early as to which direction the series heads when the teams tip off on Tuesday.