Pacers lacked focus and toughness in losing home court to Raptors

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the differences between a team that knows it can win and one that hopes to win is mental toughness.

Successful teams don't get distracted by things they can't control. The agenda and the focus stays the same.

That wasn't the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers didn't take long to show how fragile they were when they didn't handle adversity well early in the game. The more calls that didn't go their way, the more they griped at the officials and the less they competed.

That doesn't work against a team that won 56 games during the regular season and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers were thoroughly outplayed in their 101-85 loss to the Raptors in Game 3. Toronto leads the series 2-1.

"We didn't do our job," Pacers All-Star forward Paul George said. "It sucks. We didn't take care of business on our home court. We were in the driver's seat. We have to stay positive. Still have a chance to even this up 2-2, make it a best out of three series."

Playing angry. Playing with toughness. Playing physical.

That's what George said the Pacers have to do in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. The reality is that's what they should have done in Game 3. Do that and they wouldn't have needed less than 24 minutes to give up home court in the series.

George spent time after the game soaking his feet in a bucket of ice scanning over the final stat sheet. Rather than look at the sheet, George and the rest of the Pacers should have looked in the mirror because they played soft until it was too late.

The Pacers were a scrappy, resilient bunch that overcame a lack of an identity most of the regular season to make the playoffs. But for much of the game Thursday they played like a group that was simply happy to have won a game in the series. The Raptors were the ones diving on the ground for the ball and being physical, and the Pacers were the ones playing carelessly.

Indiana had the same number of turnovers as field goals in the first half -- 12 -- and they trailed by as many 23 points while their fans spent part of the game booing them.

"It's definitely frustrating," Pacers forward Solomon Hill said. "When you get down like that, it kind of takes the mental [part] out of people and you make runs and one play can ruin a run. We were trying to make a run the whole game instead of giving one-two punches going back and forth. We were playing uphill and not controlling the pace. ... Nobody wants to hear boos, especially on your home court in a playoff series."

George, the best player through the first two games, had the least composure in Game 3. He spent part of the game chirping at the officials over not getting foul calls. There was a sequence where he complained after missing a dunk because he thought he was pushed. Then he went down the court arguing with the officials after making a tough layup in traffic on the next possession. Referee James Capers finally had enough and gave George a technical in front of the Raptors bench.

George led all scorers with 25 points, but he was only 6-of-19 shooting during a game where whining to the officials seemed almost as important as scoring and defending for the All-Star.

Guard Rodney Stuckey got a technical for kicking his leg out at Raptors forward Patrick Patterson and rookie Myles Turner picked up a technical for being upset over a foul being called on him in the second half.

"It's hard in certain parts of the game because I feel like the stakes are so high and every play is a big play," Pacers forward C.J. Miles said. "There's going to be reaction throughout the game. We understand that. It's a lot of things that weigh into it. The biggest thing is to continue to channel that energy. You can't be worried about the five guys on the floor -- two of them All-Stars -- and other three guys with whistles. That's too many people to think about. ... We have to figure out a way to win four games or we're going home."