The Toronto Raptors entered the 2016 NBA Playoffs looking for vindication. Toronto had an excellent regular season, setting a franchise record with 56 wins and locking down the East's No. 2 seed. But after getting swept out of the playoffs last year by the Wizards, Toronto had to experience some postseason success before anyone would buy them as a true contender for the NBA Finals.
After one game, they're off to a poor start. The seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers knocked off Toronto 100-90 in Game 1 of their first round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday afternoon behind a barrage of three-pointers and a great game from Paul George.
Indiana took over down the stretch when they put the ball in George's hands. George created two layups at the rim for Myles Turner and hit four long jumpers himself in the final six minutes to ice the game. The Pacers were able to overcome the Raptors major advantage on the glass, where Jonas Valanciunas (19 rebounds) helped Toronto enjoy a 52-38 edge on the glass.
Here's three things we learned from Game 1 of this series:
The Pacers need Paul George to be the best player in the series
Rarely will a No. 7 seed have the best player on the floor against the No. 2 seed, but that's exactly what Paul George was on Saturday. After scoring only six points in the first half, George exploded for 17 points in the third to finish with 33 points, five assists and four steals in the win.
When George is at the top of his game, he's a game-changer on both ends of the floor:
George was 4-of-5 from three-point range in the game and consistently hit tough shots down the stretch to seal the win.
In a series where Toronto's bench projects as a big advantage for the Raptors, Indiana needs its star player to keep playing as well as he did on Saturday.
The Raptors need more out of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan
Kyle Lowry dedicated himself to getting into the best shape of his life after the Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs last year. DeMar DeRozan averaged a career-high 23.5 points per game this year and is bracing to be one of the summer's biggest free agents. Both players have a lot on the line in this series, but they didn't show up the way Toronto needed them to in Game 1.
Lowry finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the floor. DeRozan finished with 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field.
If Toronto wants to exorcise its recent playoff demons, that's not going to cut it. Lowry and DeRozan need to step up.
Indiana's three-point shooting swung the game
Indiana worked all summer to transform from a slow, grind it out team to one that played faster and more dynamic on the perimeter. It payed off in a big way in Game 1.
Indiana went 11-of-21 from three-point range, good for 52.4 percent from beyond the arc. The Raptors, conversely, shot just 21.1 percent from three, hitting only four of the 19 threes they attempted.
Want to make up for Toronto's big edge on the glass? Indiana needs to keep shooting like it did on Saturday.
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