<
>

Raptors complete miracle comeback in Game 5 by going small

TORONTO -- There was no inspirational speech at the end of the third quarter.

Kyle Lowry didn’t think his teammates needed to hear one.

“Before the fourth started, Bismack Biyombo was about to say something and try to bring us in, but I just told the group, there’s no need to talk, we just have to go play,” Lowry told ESPN.com after the Toronto Raptors completed the greatest comeback in franchise playoff history.

“I didn’t even say it disrespectfully. I just said, ‘Let’s go play.’”

The Raptors trailed the Indiana Pacers by 13 points heading into the final period. They were left for dead and buried. Nothing had gone right. Patrick Patterson was ineffective in his first playoff start while Paul George was unstoppable no matter what defender Toronto put on him.

For a Raptors fan base that has endured so much misery over the years, it really was “Here we go again.”

Another letdown.

Another disappointment.

A third consecutive first-round exit loomed for the favored Raptors.

But rather miraculously, none of that ended up happening, because Toronto coach Dwane Casey decided to go into desperation mode and trot out a small lineup that had never played a single minute together all season: Lowry, Biyombo, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross and Norman Powell.

Analytics be damned.

“We were getting our butts kicked, and I thought we were going to go down with the guys that were swinging,” Casey said. “They were just scrapping and that is what the playoffs are about.”

The comeback began with George resting on the bench. It ended with him on the floor.

Galvanized by going one-in and four-out, the Raptors kicked off the fourth quarter on a 21-2 run and stole Game 5 from the Pacers, 102-99, on Tuesday night in front of a raucous sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre.

Solomon Hill's 3-pointer with no time left had appeared to send the game into overtime, but it was deemed no good by the NBA replay center because the final buzzer had already sounded before the ball left his hand.

“That was that group in there, that toughness, that want-to, that inner ‘OK, I’m tired of getting my butt kicked.’ That inner ‘OK, we’re going to war,’” Casey said. “That group that was in there, I thought it had that.”

It was the first time in franchise history that the Raptors had won a playoff game when trailing by double digits, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. They rallied after being down by as many as 17, and lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“I can’t even explain it,” Lowry said of Casey going small and the rally that ensued. “It literally was like one possession at a time, and it felt like we just kept chipping away. I guess it just worked out for us.”

DeMar DeRozan, who had struggled all series long -- shooting 29.6 percent from the field and averaging 13.3 points through the first four games -- replaced Ross midway through the fourth quarter and finished with a playoff-career-high 34 points.

“I just felt like my normal self,” DeRozan said. “It’s all about patience. You can’t get flustered; you just have to stay the course. That’s what we want to continue to do -- doing whatever it takes to win.”

George, who had 37 points through three quarters, had just two in the final period, with Powell serving as his primary defender.

“It was big for me to have the coaches believe in me in that situation,” Powell said. “I know it was going to take not just my effort but the all five of us on the court. I was just trying to bring energy, be physical with him and take him out of what he was trying to do.”

The whole comeback was unbelievable, really. Still is, in fact. Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri was in a eurphoric state over the result as he stood outside the locker room.

“We gave it our all,” Biyombo said.

Lineups with him as the only big man outscored the Pacers by 25 points, according to tracking by ESPN Stats & Info.

“We didn’t do a very good job in the first half, but we had to find a way to get back in the game," Biyombo added. "More than anything, we kept playing hard each and every possession. We still have one more to go, so we have to go back to Indiana and take care of business.”

George ended up a plus-15, which means the Pacers were outscored by 18 when he wasn’t on the court.

Over the first 8:40 of the fourth, the Raptors shot 8-for-15 from the field while limiting Indiana to 1-for-7.

Everyone contributed on both ends.

Like Lowry said, Toronto slowly chipped away, allowing its defense to spark its offense. Next thing you knew, Powell was flying in for an emphatic dunk to tie the game at 92-92. Then Joseph and DeRozan were hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to put Toronto up 98-92.

With each play, the crowd erupted in a deafening roar. From there, it was about holding on, about things going Toronto’s way for once.

In the past, Hill gets that 3 off with 0.1 seconds left.

Not this time.

No, this time there would not be another Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter or Chris Childs moment.

“It was a close one,” said Joseph, who lost Hill on the play. “Saved by the bell, you could call it that.”

The Raptors have never won a best-of-seven series in franchise history, and this one is not over yet.

Things were going really badly. Yet for once, for this snake-bitten franchise, they didn’t end that way.

“It was good, it was positive,” Lowry said of the postgame atmosphere in the locker room. “But we still have a job ahead.”