INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for playing Game 6 with a Game 7 mentality.
With a chance to finally move on to the second round for the first time in 15 years, the Toronto Raptors had their worst second half in franchise playoff history, getting outscored by 22 points as they were routed by the Indiana Pacers 101-83 on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series will be played Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
“We have to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize what basketball team we want to be,” Raptors power forward Patrick Patterson said.
“Do we want to be the team that won 56 games? Do we want to be the team that got two All-Stars to the All-Star Game, set new records, went on long winning streaks and played great defense in the first half of the season? Or do we want to be the team that has come into Indiana the past two times and got blown out of the water? We have to decide what we want to be. We have to decide what team we want to be, and that’s it.”
Toronto jumped out to an 18-6 lead and held a four-point lead at halftime but was outscored 31-20 in the third quarter and 30-19 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m disappointed just in the fact that all of us in that locker room let this opportunity slip away, but again that’s why you play 82 games to get home-court advantage,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We understand the fight and physicality we have to play with. I thought we started out the game that way, but for whatever reason we missed some shots and we carried it to the other end and we can’t allow that to happen. That was the turning point in the game.”
The Raptors are now 1-5 in close-out games and have never won a best-of-seven postseason series.
Lowry, who continues to maintain that his sore right elbow is not an issue, became the first player in the shot-clock era to shoot below 40 percent from the field in each of his first six games during a playoff season (minimum 10 attempts per game), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“[My elbow] is not limiting me at all,” said Lowry, a tough player who isn’t one to make excuses. “The Pacers are doing a great job on me. It’s as simple as that. They’re all over me, mixing up coverages. Give them credit -- they’re playing me extremely well, and George Hill is playing good defense. Their defense is forcing me into tougher shots.”
Lowry did deliver in other areas as he has been doing throughout the playoffs, dishing out 10 assists to go along with five rebounds and two steals. DeRozan, on the other hand, has sandwiched a 34-point Game 5 with eight-point, high-turnover performances in Games 4 and 6.
Nevertheless, the Raptors know it isn’t over yet. They have to respond accordingly.
“We’ve got an opportunity,” DeRozan said. “We love to play the game -- we love the game of basketball. You can’t make it seem like a funeral. It’s a chance for us to go out and compete at the highest level, which we love to do, and an opportunity for us to do it on our home court.”
Still, all they’ve accomplished this season would be rendered meaningless if they get bounced after taking a 3-2 series lead.
There is obviously a lot riding on Game 7. The Raptors would love nothing more than to get over the hump and make everyone forget about all the previous times they’ve failed to come through in this exact spot.
For the Raptors and Canada, this will be a significant moment.
“It means everything for us to advance,” DeRozan said. “The season would be a failure if we don’t make it out of this first round and give ourselves a chance to play in the second round. We understand that. It’s basketball. We love to play this game. It comes with highs, it comes with lows, but you’ve got to be ready for the challenge at the end of the day.”
Added Casey: “I think we will respond. I know we will respond. I think there is fight in that locker room. I have confidence in this group. I have faith in this group that they will come out and fight.”