Raptors storm back to even series with Pacers

Valanciunas posts double-double; Struggling DeRozan benched in 4th quarter.

Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan endured another difficult playoff performance.

With the highest-scoring playoff game of his career, Jonas Valanciunas made sure DeRozan’s struggles didn’t matter.

Valanciunas had 23 points and 15 rebounds, Kyle Lowry had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Toronto beat the Indiana Pacers 98-87 on Monday night. That snapped their postseason losing streak at seven games and evened the series 1-1.

“We’ve all got to step up,” Valanciunas said. “It’s not an individual sport. Some nights are tough for Kyle, some nights it’s tough for DeMar, tough for me. Everybody has tough times, so everybody has got to pull for each other.”

Lowry said Valanciunas has become “an integral part” of Toronto’s offence.

“He’s playing fantastic,” Lowry said. “He’s rolling hard, he’s rebounding the ball extremely well. When teams are trying to take myself and DeMar out, he’s got to have big games for us.”

The Raptors had not won a playoff game since a 115-113 home victory over Brooklyn on April 30, 2014.

Paul George scored 28 points and Monta Ellis had 15 for the Pacers, who host Game 3 on Thursday night.

Before then, George said, the Pacers have to find a way to slow down Valanciunas.

“He’s been huge, literally,” George said. “We’re doing a good job on Kyle and DeMar but the third guy, Valanciunas, has stepped up. He’s who is causing us the problems right now and we’ve got to figure it out.”

Toronto finished with 46 points in the paint, compared to Indiana’s 30, and the Raptors out-rebounded the Pacers 44-33.

“We’ve got our hands full with their frontcourt,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Corey Joseph scored 16 points, Patrick Patterson added 14 and DeRozan had 10 for the Raptors.

Lowry and DeRozan both had poor shooting performances in Saturday’s Game 1 loss, combining to make eight of 32 attempts. Neither was particularly sharp in this one, either, with Lowry making four of 13 and DeRozan making five of 18.

Lowry still found a way to make an impact by turning provider. He had five assists in the first quarter.

DeRozan, however, never seemed to find his rhythm and spent the fourth quarter on the bench as Lowry and Toronto’s reserves pulled away from the Pacers.

“I think he understands that group was rolling pretty well,” coach Dwane Casey said.

DeRozan did not attempt a free throw.

Valanciunas scored 13 points in the first quarter and added six rebounds as Toronto used a 19-3 run to lead 27-16 after one, thanks to an 18-2 edge on points in the paint. George picked up his second foul with 4:34 left in the first and had to sit.

“The foul Kyle drew on me was a cheap foul,” George said. “[Referee Monty McCutchen] came over and told me that he messed that one up. It happens.”

Ross undergoes concussion protocol

Ross was held out of the second half for precautionary reasons after being knocked down during an inbounds play late in the second quarter. Ross underwent concussion protocol tests at halftime. Tests revealed no clear sign of a concussion but Ross did have a headache.

Unsatisfactory split

George was frustrated the Pacers weren’t able to take a 2-0 series lead back to Indiana. “Usually you walk away from [a split] feeling good about it but I’m kind of upset about this one because a lot of stuff that we gave up tonight was preventable,” he said. “The game was set up the same way as Game 1 for us to rally back and win. We weren’t tied in, I think our focus was lost.”

Article Written By: Ian Harrison