Paul George needs help from supporting cast for the Pacers to have a chance

TORONTO -- Paul George did his part for the second straight game. He was the best offensive player on the court and harassed Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan most of the night into another tough shooting performance.

But the Indiana Pacers forward can’t do it by himself.

That was evident against a desperate Toronto team that could not head to Indianapolis down two games in the best-of-seven series.

George's sidekicks, who had a strong supporting role in the Pacers’ Game 1 victory, vanished in their 98-87 Game 2 loss.

Having only one other player score in double digits and only one player grab more than five rebounds won’t get it done against a team whose All-Star, DeRozan, has yet to show up in this series.

“We all have to do a better job of helping Paul out,” Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey said. “We’re at our best offensively when we’re moving the ball around and moving [our feet].”

Monday’s loss followed a trend in the playoffs for the Pacers. They’ve lost four of their past five Game 2s after winning the first game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. They failed to score 90 points in all four of the losses.

The playoffs are all about making changes from one game to the next, and that’s exactly what Toronto did. The Raptors, the third-best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season, did not spend all game throwing double-teams at George because the All-Star would have made them pay by giving up the ball to his open teammates.

What the Raptors did was play George straight up without giving much help. George scored a game-high 28 points and Monta Ellis added 15 points.

“You’re not going to shut down Monta Ellis, George Hill every night,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Again, sort of you have to understand what you’re in for, what you’re trying to do. All those guys are great players and great scorers, and the guys out there did a good job. There were a couple of times we had to double-team and we had to pick and choose our spots.”

One of the most noticeable differences for the Pacers was in the frontcourt, where rookie Myles Turner, Solomon Hill, Lavoy Allen and Ian Mahinmi didn’t give much. The four players combined for just 17 points and 17 rebounds. Mahinmi is considered day-to-day after leaving the game with a sprained lower back.

To put that into perspective, Raptors starting center Jonas Valanciunas finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds by himself to bring his two-game total up to 35 points and 34 rebounds.

“[Valanciunas has] been huge -- literally,” George said. “We’re doing a good job on Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar, but Valanciunas has stepped up. He’s the one that’s causing problems right now, and we have to figure it out.”

The Pacers got within four twice in the third quarter before the Raptors locked in defensively. Toronto held George to only four points and limited Indiana to 38.9 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.

"You have to credit the job Coach Casey does," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "This group is really tied together, really energetic. They protect the rim really well and they get out and try and guard their own man, and they get to shooters on the weak side. You don't win 56 games by accident. We have to be razor-sharp with our execution."

George was frustrated and short after the game because he knew the Pacers had their opportunities to take a 2-0 lead, despite falling behind by 18 points.

“I’m upset about this one,” George said. “You usually feel good walking away from a road trip with the series tied at one, but I’m upset because a lot of stuff that we gave up tonight was preventable. This game was set up the same way for us as Game 1 to rally back and win this game. I thought our focus was lost and we gave up some plays that we shouldn’t have.”