Following the debacle in Milwaukee last night, the Indiana Pacers were able to successfully cleanse their palette with a thrilling victory over the Toronto Raptors at home. The Pacers needed big time buckets in the clutch to counteract Toronto’s big time buckets in the clutch after very nearly getting foiled by the zone defense.
The Pacers looked good early, welcoming the return of Jeremy Lamb with back-to-back threes as part of seven first quarter triples for the team as a whole. Alongside Lamb was Myles Turner, scoring 11 in the opening quarter himself, helping the Pacers to a quick double figure advantage over a brick-heavy Raptors squad.
That 11-point lead would prove a useful buffer early in the second, when Indiana suddenly went ice cold, missing their first six shots, allowing the Raptors to climb within six. Doug McDermott and Domantas Sabonis responded, however, scoring seven straight to again make it a double figure advantage, eventually pushing out to as many as 15, before settling into the half with a 54-44 advantage.
Indiana found extensive success in the first half through their ball movement, which isn’t a real surprise, but when T.J. Warren led the team in assists with five first half dimes, that’s where the surprises come in. To help the cause, the Raptors looked tired on their shooting. They shot 2-19 from three point range in the first half, working in the Pacers favor though their own three point shooting lagged behind their first quarter explosion.
In the second half, however, the inevitable turn in favors rewarded Toronto, giving them life and then some from beyond the arc. The Raptors started 7-8 shooting in the second half, getting easy shots at the rim while Kyle Lowry hit their first three of the half. This allowed the Raptors to stay within striking distance despite a quick start from Indiana, with back-to-back threes from Turner and Aaron Holiday leading to a Warren bucket and his career high tying sixth assist to Sabonis.
That assist and bucket, making it 64-50 in Indiana’s advantage, would prove the high water mark. The Raptors slipped into a 2-3 zone, which completely obliterated Indiana’s offensive rhythm. Suddenly their shots quit falling, all while Toronto’s three point shooting began to heat up. Within two and a half minutes, the Raptors had made it a three point game.
The Pacers did well to hold the Raptors at bay after that, trading defensive stops and getting timely shots from Warren to salvage some semblance of offense. T.J. McConnell busted the zone as best he could, scoring six of his 12 to close the quarter, but Lowry’s shooting proved too much, putting Toronto into the lead at 79-78 heading into the fourth.
With Toronto in a zone, both literally and figuratively, the fourth quarter threes from both McDermott and Justin Holiday proved crucial to keep pace, but Terence Davis and Fred VanVleet would give Toronto a two-possession lead, one they would nurse heading into the final four minutes of the fourth.
The one thing that actually went right for the Pacers through the middle portion of the fourth quarter was that the Raptors kept the door open through missed free throws. Toronto had three misses in the fourth, which kept them from ever building more than a five point lead. Then came Holiday SZN.
Entering the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, Aaron Holiday had just six points on a pair of threes, but did have seven assists, filling in for Malcolm Brogdon, who was out with injury. Holiday hit a jumper against the zone, then found Warren for the game tying bucket. Though Toronto refused to back down, so too did Holiday, who scored the next five, then found Warren again for the go-ahead three with 40 seconds remaining.
SO CLUTCH@TonyWarrenJr pic.twitter.com/Oa28uY1HUM— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 24, 2019
The lead would prove short-lived against Lowry and the Raptors, however, after he got inside easily for a game-tying bucket. Both teams traded misses, first from Holiday and then from Lowry to keep the game knotted at 107-107 heading into overtime. Once there, Serge Ibaka gave Toronto the early lead, but Indiana’s ball movement prevailed, finding Turner in the corner for the three.
Following a VanVleet bucket, Turner was again in position to knock down his fifth three of the night courtesy of Holiday.
#SPLASH @Original_Turner pic.twitter.com/BKYdTT69Cp— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 24, 2019
The Pacers, though hitting shots offensively, just could not find the stops on the other end. To their credit, they hit threes while Toronto lived inside, which allowed them to inch ever further out into the lead, taking a three point lead on Holiday’s fourth three, courtesy of Turner. VanVleet cut it to one off a steal, but Holiday had yet another response, hitting his fifth of the night in the corner to make it a four point game with 53 seconds remaining.
Aaron Holiday (19 PTS, 10 AST) knocks down his 5th trey of the night!@Raptors 115@Pacers 119— NBA (@NBA) December 24, 2019
28.1 to play in OT on @NBATV pic.twitter.com/vmiHro0BWY
The Pacers finally found their white whale defensively when off of an OG Anunoby miss, Turner and Warren dove onto the floor to keep the ball alive for Sabonis to pick it up, securing the game winning stop, giving Indiana the 120-115 victory.
One night after putting up 40 threes, the Pacers had 42 attempts tonight. The difference of course is that things are much easier when it’s going in. Indiana made 18 on the night, including five each from Holiday and Turner, each hitting a pair in the overtime period. The Raptors meanwhile had just 11, this including a scorching stretch in the second half where they shot 8-12.
Turner co-starred on the scoreboard tonight with 24 points, shooting 9-12 and 5-6 from three point range. His first of overtime was particularly noteworthy, as he was leaning out of bounds in the corner, hoisting up a shot that honestly looked like it didn’t have much of a prayer. His confidence helped bury it, eventually leading to his second in the extra frame.
Holiday meanwhile finished with 19 points and 10 assists. He was 5-10 from three point range himself, scoring 13 points in the final eight minutes of the game. Holiday brought the Pacers back from the depths of defeat with his performance late, taking over at the end after playing a supporting role throughout the game to that point.
He still found guys on passes though, his 10 leading the way on a night when Indiana had 34 assists as a team, one shy of a season best. The seven early assists went to four different guys, starting with Lamb early. Lamb returned to action, providing the Pacers with a nice punch on both ends, hitting his first two threes as part of a 12-point outing.
Holiday also found Warren twice, who had 24 points himself. Warren, similar to Holiday, didn’t look to score much in the first half. He had just seven points before the break, but passed the ball with surprising results, giving him five assists in the first half. After dishing his sixth to Turner early in the third, he turned his attention to scoring, salvaging an otherwise disastrous third quarter with eight points, before scoring nine more in the fourth to eventually push Indiana into the lead late.
Sabonis was perhaps most affected by the 2-3 zone, shooting just 5-14 from the floor, and worse yet, 2-7 from the line, missing his first four attempts. Sabonis did rebound well, as expected, bringing in 17 for the, five on the offensive end. The Pacers only converted points in the fifth one, however, McConnell bringing the Pacers to within one with eight minutes in the fourth.
McConnell led a solid bench outing with 12, playing most effective against Toronto’s zone. McDermott had eight, struggling at 2-7, but he, along with J. Holiday, found their best success with their early fourth quarter threes, by clockwork. Edmond Sumner picked up minutes with Brogdon out, playing his best since his return, scoring all six of his points in the first half.
Injuries counting against Toronto shortened their bench, allowing the Pacers to win the battle of the benches 29-21. That was an especially key advantage given Toronto’s incredible second unit success in their comeback win over Dallas a night earlier.
Tonight’s win allowed the Pacers, perpetually locked in sixth place, to keep pace with the rest of the 2-6 logjam, sitting a game outside of second place Boston. Despite having their overall win streak snapped, the Pacers did extend their home winning streak to five, moving them to 14-3 overall.
Indiana will be back in action on Friday, when they have another tall order on the road, facing the Miami Heat, who are 13-1 at home. In the meantime, from Indy Cornrows, have a Happy Holiday SZN.