It was an all-too familiar scene for the Toronto Raptors on Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers. They were coming into the postseason with home court advantage, looking to give a rabid fanbase the win they deserve and start what they hoped would be a deep run on the right foot. Instead, they were upset in Toronto by a team with a big wing they had no hope of containing.
The Pacers' 100-90 win -- propelled by a fantastic performance from Paul George -- not only puts the Raptors behind in the series, but it will also make them confront their demons.
Toronto has a pair of All-Stars starting in the backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but there was no doubt that was the best player on the floor in Game 1. The Pacers' star popped off for 33 points, six assists and four steals. George was a wrecking ball on both ends of the court, shutting down DeRozan while orchestrating the offense and hitting tough jumpers. His two-way versatility was in full display.
As undeniably great as George is, however, his big game was made possible by the favorable matchup. It has to be frustrating for Toronto to keep getting beaten the same way. Big wings have been poison to them in the past two seasons. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson picked them apart in the two upsets they suffered in the playoffs, simply because they have no one who can guard that type of player.
They signed DeMarre Carroll to a huge contract in the offseason to plug that hole and be their wing stopper, only to see a knee injury sideline him for most of the season. He's back in action now but he's coming off the bench, clearly not fully healthy and in rhythm. He was only on the court for 19 minutes in Game 1 and didn't make much of a positive impact in any area.
Toronto has home court advantage, a better bench and a big edge in physicality up front. The front office built a good team and the stars worked hard to improve on their games. And it still wasn't enough in Game 1 -- just like nothing they did was enough in the past two postseasons.
The series is just starting and the Raptors could still come back and beat Indiana to advance to the second round for the second time in franchise history. In order to do so, however, they have to find a way to stop one of the best scoring forwards in the game in George. Hey, no one said slaying demons would be easy.
3 other things we learned
The Houston Rockets can't compete with the Golden State Warriors
If anyone had any hope that the Rockets were going to find their mojo and give the Warriors a series, it was extinguished after a 104-78 beatdown. Houston simply doesn't have the defensive cohesiveness and effort to make life hard for Golden State and its offense is broken. Unless James Harden -- who scored 17 points on 19 shots in Game 1 -- finds a way to go for 50 the rest of the way, we are in for three more blowouts.
To anyone but their fans, it was a drag to see the Rockets make the playoffs in the first place. The Utah Jazz would not have beaten the Warriors, but with their length and physical play, they could have at least made them work. Maybe Houston will do better in Game 2, but it's hard to trust them after that awful regular season.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics was as fun as we all expected it to be
Unlike what happens in the West, there's parity in the East. That was not only evident by the Pacers' upset, but also in the fantastic game the Hawks and Celtics played. It started out with the Hawks using their defense to fuel their offense and the Celtics missing everything. In the second half the roles reversed and it was Atlanta which struggled to score while Boston got steals and fast-break points.
In the end the Hawks narrowly avoided the collapse, thanks to the play of Jeff Teague and some missed free throws and poor execution by the Celtics. The best part of the game was the level of uncertainty it had, which was absent in the other matchups of the night. If you are choosing just one first-round series to watch, make it this one.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder could get sad
While the Warriors disposed of the Rockets with certain detachment, the Thunder seemed to relish completely destroying the Mavericks. Even when they were up by 30 points, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continued to drive to the rim, like the game was still up for grabs. They wanted to obliterate Dallas and they did.
It was nothing short of heartbreaking to watch Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki, a combination that used to inspire fear in opponents, completely helpless against a team that is so much better and hungrier than theirs. The Mavericks probably knew they had no chance against the Thunder but at least wanted to keep their dignity in defeat. Oklahoma City took it from them in Game 1 and if the glee they showed while doing it is any indication, they don't plan to give it back anytime soon.
Play of the night
Playoff Teague did bad things to the Celtics' defense all night, but this one was the prettiest of the bunch.
3 fun things
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Not So Secret Weapon: Nobody can stop the Warriors' deadliest play
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