(The Sports Xchange) - Dwane Casey read the reviews of the Toronto Raptors’ decisive Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
They were not good, and the Toronto coach feels many of the critics dismissed his team heading into Game 7 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
“I think everybody wrote us off and gave us up for dead,” Casey said. “I love that because I thought our guys used it as motivation.”
DeMar DeRozan, who had struggled in the playoffs, took matters into his own hands and led the way with 30 points as the Raptors held on to defeat the Pacers 89-84 on Sunday.
The Raptors advance to face the Miami Heat in the second round, with Game 1 on Tuesday in Toronto. The Heat eliminated the Charlotte Hornets in Game 7 earlier on Sunday.
Toronto led by 16 points with 7:31 to play and then held on as the Pacers cut the margin to three points with 2:35 left.
Indiana had the ball with 26.9 seconds to go, down by three, but the Raptors made the stop. DeRozan sank two free throws to stretch the lead to five with 6.5 seconds left to clinch the game.
“We stunk in the fourth quarter,” Casey said. “I don’t know if we ran out of gas. The guys were so jacked up emotionally to start the game, I thought we ran out of gas.”
DeRozan said: “We were just going to leave it all out there. It was great. A lot of people don’t get a chance to play a Game 7 with everything on the line.”
“DeMar is special,” said forward Paul George, who led the Pacers with 26 points and 12 rebounds. “Guarding, you’re not going to stop him, but you just try to make every shot as tough as you can for him.”
The Raptors led most of the way and used a 28-20 third-quarter surge to take a 14-point lead into the fourth.
“Credit their defense,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “They played really well. They played so hard and they’re so well-prepared. It’s not going to be easy when you’re competing on the road.
“We made a couple of turnovers, which were problematic. You don’t win Game 7s on the road, but we were positioned to do that.”
Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 15 rebounds for Toronto, Norman Powell scored 13 points off the bench, and Patrick Patterson had 11. Kyle Lowry added 11 points and nine assists, and Bismack Biyombo contributed three points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
George broke Indiana’s playoff-series record with 191 points, topping the mark of 181 set by Reggie Miller in the 1995 Eastern Conference finals.
George Hill added 19 points for the Pacers, and Monta Ellis had 15.
Led by 13 points from DeRozan, the Raptors were ahead 28-23 after the first quarter. George guided the Pacers with 12 first-quarter points but also picked up two personal fouls.
The Raptors led by as many as eight in the second quarter before settling for a 50-44 edge at the intermission.
Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the second half before Patterson hit a 3-pointer to give the Raptors a nine-point lead.
The Raptors increased their lead to 58-46 when DeMarre Carroll made a 3-point shot.
After a Pacers turnover, Patterson made a 3-pointer to extend the margin to 15. George responded with a 3-pointer for the Pacers. Field goals by Ellis and Solomon Hill trimmed Toronto’s lead to eight.
After Indiana cut the lead to nine on a 3-pointer by George Hill, DeRozan reeled off six straight points and Toronto led by 15.
Toronto’s advantage was 78-64 after three quarters.
The Raptors’ lead reached 16 points with 7:31 to play in the fourth on Cory Joseph’s jumper.
Ellis got the Pacers to within eight, and when Ellis hit a 3-pointer, the margin was down to three.
Lowry got the edge back to five points with two minutes left on a driving layup.
George cut the lead to three with two free throws.
Editing by Peter Rutherford