There’s not much more to say. Game 7, here we come.
After the heartbreak of game 5, in which they squandered a 13-point 4th quarter lead in the most disgusting of ways, the Indiana Pacers regathered themselves in the 2nd half of game 6 and cruised to a 101-83 victory, setting up a decisive game 7 in Toronto on Sunday.
Paul George didn’t play all 48 minutes like he suggested he might, but he did stay in the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter (after playing all of the 3rd), allowing the Pacers to extend a 7-point lead to a 28-point lead with 3 minutes to go. He didn’t have a good shooting game either, finishing with 21 points on 5-14 shooting, but he manage to get to the line (going 10-10) and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to go with a team-high 11 assists. Oh, and he shut down DeRozan again (3-13, 8 points, 4 turnovers).
All five starters finished in double figures. Myles Turner had 15, 9 and 4 blocks, Ian Mahinmi had 12, George Hill had 12 and Monta Ellis had 14. Solomon Hill, a whipping boy for fans for most of the regular season, had 9 points and a team-high +32 on the plus-minus chart in 24 minutes of play. Rodney Stuckey, who laid an egg last game and has been generally horrible these playoffs thus far, had 8 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists in 20 minutes (and a +28 plus-minus).
The Pacers didn’t come out with the intensity I expected them to after the way game 5 ended, but they managed to weather the various storms to end the half down 44-40. From there, it was a different story, as they outscored the Raptors 61-39 the rest of the way.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect the Pacers to last this long in this series. Sure, they finished the season 6-1, but you would hardly call that momentum. They were feeding against cellar-dwellers and teams missing their star players, sometimes both, and their up-and-down play all season didn’t infuse anyone with confidence. I was expecting 5 games, possibly 6, but definitely not 7. Let’s just say I felt the odds of the Pacers being swept were higher than them forcing a game 7.
But here they are, and they’ve got a real shot at an upset. They’ve shown they can win in Toronto by taking game 1, and but for the epic collapse in game 5, they would have won another. Paul George has really surprised me by taking his game to the next level in this series. Of course, you have to sympathize because of his injury, but he was frustratingly inconsistent after his scorching start, and didn’t show the kind of leadership needed to take his team where he wanted it to go. But over the last 6 games, he has proven himself to be easily the best player in the series, and making fellow All Stars DeRozan and Lowry look like frauds by comparison. Here’s to hoping he has one more big game left in him to carry the Pacers to a historic upset.