The Toronto Raptors were on the ropes for large chunks of game five, but 34 points from DeMar DeRozan and a thrilling fourth quarter rally delivered a 102-99 win and a 3-2 series lead.
Despite DeRozan’s bounce back performance (10-for-22 from the field, 12-for-13 from the free-throw line), Toronto trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter. But the Raptors’ gritty bench unit answered the call, scoring the first 21 points of the fourth quarter and leading a 23-2 run.
Paul George matched his career high 39 points but scored just two points in the fourth quarter. Solomon Hill’s game-tying three-pointer at the final buzzer was ruled out after review as Indiana saw a winnable game slip through their fingers.
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Unnerved by Indiana’s fast start in game four, Toronto head coach Dwane Casey looked for a spark by moving mobile power forward Patrick Patterson into the starting line-up. But it made little difference as the Pacers again flew out of the gate, engineering open looks galore and shooting 57% on the way to a 35-20 first quarter lead.
They even got a helping hand from Toronto’s Terrence Ross who grabbed a missed three-pointer before it was off the rim. Boos rang out around the Air Canada Centre.
With most of his starters looking rattled, Casey turned to his bench group alongside DeRozan, capitalising on the time that George was resting. In a preview of what was to come, the Toronto reserves helped change the momentum as the defence tightened and DeRozan made back-to-back jumpers followed by a rim-rattling dunk. His relief at being free of George’s swarming defense was palpable - and the crowd was back in it.
George sat for the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter as Frank Vogel unleashed a shaky second unit. By the time he returned, Toronto had slashed the lead to three points. Undeterred, the Pacers star torched the Raptors for seven quick points.
Indiana was a monstrous +21 with George on the court in the first half on the way to a 61-52 lead that somehow felt like it should have been larger.
The third quarter saw DeRozan and George in a scoring duel, with the Pacers man, in particular, making a series of tough, contested shots. But the Raptors soon slipped back into desperate one-on-one offense and the visitors’ lead grew. Toronto had just 12 assists on the night – a statistic at the root of their struggles, especially when compared to Indiana’s tally of 22.
Again, the Raptors climbed back into the game with George, surprisingly, on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. Casey boldly gave his second unit a chance to shine and they rewarded him with a rousing 23-2 run.
This time, George’s return did nothing to stem the tide. Ross drilled a corner three to cut the lead to two, before Norman Powell’s steal and dunk tied the game at 92 with 6:31 to go.
Ross turned villain with three straight misses from downtown, but DeRozan and Corey Joseph bailed him out with triples of their own, putting the Raptors up six, with 3:26 to play.
Indiana recovered to cut the lead to one through Solomon Hill’s corner three but, after DeRozan held his nerve at the line, the Pacers’ potential game-tying shot was just a fraction too late.
The series heads back to Indiana on Friday for game six.