TORONTO (AP) DeMar DeRozan finally turned in the All-Star effort Toronto has been waiting for in the playoffs.
DeRozan’s big game, and an even bigger Raptors comeback, put Toronto on the brink of a second-round berth.
DeRozan scored 34 points and the Raptors held on for a 102-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers and a 3-2 lead in their first-round series Tuesday night when Solomon Hill‘s 3-pointer was ruled after the buzzer.
“I just felt like my normal self,” said DeRozan, who came in shooting 29.6 percent (21 for 71) over the first four games of the series but connected on 10 of 22 shots in this one.
“It’s all about patience,” DeRozan added. “You can’t get flustered, you can’t get frustrated. You’ve got to stay the course. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Bismack Biyombo had 10 points and 16 rebounds for the second-seeded Raptors, who can clinch the first seven-game playoff series victory in franchise history by beating the Pacers in Indiana on Friday night.
“If we don’t come in (Friday) with the mentality like we had in the fourth quarter, it’s going to be a long game,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
“It’s awful to have had a chance to win on the road, go up 3-2, and come back home,” George said. “Once again, we failed to live up to that moment.”
The Pacers made 13 of 29 from 3-point range but struggled from all over the floor in the fourth, making four of 15 shots and scoring just nine points in the period.
Trailing 90-77 to begin the fourth, the Raptors tied the game with a 15-2 run. Powell stole the ball from Monta Ellis and made a fast-break dunk to knot it at 92-all with 6:31 remaining, sending the sellout crowd of 19,800 into a frenzy.
“I think the crowd, the intensity, it took away from us being in attack mode and being confident,” George said. “I thought we played a little nervous, a little tight, on our heels.”
Toronto’s first six points of the fourth came with George on the bench. He checked back in with 8:36 left.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he considered leaving George in to start the fourth, but decided to stick with his reserves.
“(George) looked pretty gassed at the end of the third,” Vogel said. “We had a decent lead that I thought we could hold up. I chose to trust those guys, those guys have been good for us. They had a tough stretch there.”
After Powell’s basket, neither team scored again until DeRozan hit a tiebreaking 3 with 4:15 remaining. After a missed 3 by Ellis, Cory Joseph hit another 3 for Toronto, putting the Raptors up 98-92 with 3:26 left.
Solomon Hill‘s 3 with 15.9 seconds cut it to 100-99, but DeRozan answered with a pair of free throws.
Indiana had the ball under Toronto’s basket with 2.7 seconds left. Ellis inbounded to George, who fed Solomon Hill, and Pacers players threw their arms up in celebration when his shot from the left side went through the net. But video replay confirmed that the shot came too late.
“I wanted (George) to take the last shot if he was open,” Vogel said. “He stumbled a little bit, had two guys on him. He made the right basketball play. It was a great play, just a great play. One frame shy of being a tie game and going to overtime.”
Among those impressed by Toronto’s comeback was Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who sent out multiple tweets congratulating the Raptors on their `miraculous’ victory.
Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey fell into courtside seats after fumbling a pass in the fourth, landing at the feet of rapper Drake, Toronto’s “Global Ambassador.” No one had a better view than Casey. “(Stuckey’s) shoes went out and he stepped out of bounds and ran over Drake,” Casey said. “I was more worried about Drake than I was Stuckey.”
Following the game, Drake posted a photo of George on Instagram with a cartoon tear rolling down his cheek.
Pacers: George picked up a technical foul after a minor scuffle with Lowry early in the third quarter. It was George’s third technical foul in the past three games.