(The Sports Xchange) - Dwane Casey’s decision to go with a mixed-bag group on the floor in the fourth quarter paid off on Tuesday as the Toronto Raptors erased a 13-point deficit to defeat the Indiana Pacers 102-99.
With the win, the Raptors take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
A group, which included Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Bismac Biyombo and Norman Powell, helped Toronto battle back from a 90-77 third-quarter hole to tie the game 92-92.
Powell put an exclamation on the comeback throwing down a monster dunk, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 19,800 in attendance at Air Canada Centre.
“I thought we were going to go down with the guys that were swinging,” Casey said of the group he had on the floor in the fourth.
“That group was giving it to us physically -- what did (Indiana) score in the fourth quarter? Nine points? They were just scrapping and that’s what the playoffs are about: fight, toughness and for whatever reason we didn’t start the game that way.”
DeRozan gave the Raptors their first lead of the game, draining a 3-pointer with 4:15 remaining and they never relented.
DeRozan finished with a team-high 34 points and Kyle Lowry added 14 points, four rebounds and five assists. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in with 11 points.
“I felt like my normal self,” said DeRozan, who entered the game averaging just 13.3 points while shooting below 30 percent from the field.
“Me and the guys weren’t thinking too hard. It’s all about patience, you can’t get flustered, you can’t get frustrated, you’ve got to stay the course and that’s what we’re going to continue to do, whatever it takes to win.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel elected to start the fourth quarter with Paul George on the bench, which coincided with the Raptors comeback.
“Their bench came in with great energy and made a little bit of a run early and they carried it over against our starters when our guys got back in,” Vogel said.
“(George) looked pretty gassed at the end of the third. We had a decent lead, but I thought we could hold up.”
With two seconds remaining, Solomon Hill had a chance to force overtime, but the shot left his fingers a frame too late.
George, who entered the game averaging 26.3 points in the series, had a game-high 39 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. George Hill added 15 points and Myles Turner had 14.
”We didn’t make enough plays, that is what it came down to in the fourth quarter,“ said George. ”We have to put this (game) away. Friday (Game 6) is a new day and we have to get a win -- it’s a must win.
“It’s awful to have a chance to win on the road and then come back home, but we failed to live up to the moment.”
The Pacers led 61-52 at halftime.
Early in the first quarter, DeRozan scored six straight points as Toronto went on an 11-0 run, cutting Indiana’s lead to six.
The Raptors eventually trimmed the Pacers’ lead to three, but when George re-entered the game with four minutes expired in the quarter, he led Indiana on a 10-2 surge.
George finished the first half with 22 points and five assists. Hill added 15 points.
DeRozan had 19 first-half points, but Lowry was held to 1-of-6 shooting from the field and eight points through two quarters.
Toronto trailed 35-20 after the first quarter after a 15-2 Indiana run. George led the Pacers with 12 points and four assists in the opening quarter and Hill added nine points.
DeRozan had six points and Bismack Biyombo added four points and two rebounds off the bench for the Raptors.
Game 6 is on Friday in Indianapolis. When an NBA series is tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has a 151-33 series record.
Editing by Peter Rutherford