At the Buzzer: R1 G7 — Raptors 89, Pacers 84

The Pacers, as the 7th seed, pushed the Raptors to Game 7 ... but came up just short.

The Pacers, as the 7th seed, pushed the Raptors to Game 7 … but came up just short.

After three blowouts across the league this weekend, Game 7 between the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors lived up to the hype of a win or go home situation. The Pacers, who trailed most of the game, got to within three points with less than a minute remaining but it was the Raptors holding on, 89-84.

The Raptors won their first playoff series since 2001 and advance to play the Miami Heat, which begins Tuesday night in Toronto, in Round 2.

[Boxscore]

How it happened: The Pacers failed to get a shot in the first 85 seconds, turning it over three times. They settled in and turned it over just twice more in the half. Paul George got in a groove early, scoring 12 points in the first frame and keeping it close. DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors’ top scorer in the regular season, finally got going offensively. He had 13, two shy of his average for the series, in the first.

George picked up his second foul with a minute left in the first and came out, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel still started him to begin the second … and it paid off right away with a triple. Norman Powell, 46th pick in last June’s draft, impressed all series long. He scored 10 of his 13 points off the bench in the second and forced George to work harder for shots all game long.

The Raptors owned the paint in the first 24 minutes, with an 8-to-1 advantage on the offensive glass leading to eight second-chance points. Despite the Raptors having a better half, the Pacers were fortunate to only be down by six, 50-44.

The third quarter featured a series of runs: Raptors 11-2, Pacers 11-2, followed by an 8-0 spurt by the Raptors. DeRozan, unafraid to fire away, had 13 points in the quarter on 12 field goal attempts. Heading into the final 12 minutes of the series, the Pacers trailed by 14, 78-64.

Toronto go up by 16 with 7:31 left but didn’t keep the pedal down. Instead, they played not to lose. Raptors coach Dwane Casey felt his team “ran out of gas” and were exhausted “emotionally and physically.” A big push by the Pacers then brought them to within one possession. They got a defensive stand and called timeout.

Out of the huddle Paul George attacked and then threw up an alley-oop pass at the rim for Ian Mahinmi. But then DeRozan got away with a no-call. Almost 20,000 fans inside the Air Canada Centre erupted as their team had won a playoff series for the first time in 15 years.

[Quotable: Pacers and Raptors after Game 7]

What it means: The Pacers 2015-16 season is now complete. They went 45-37 in the regular season and forced a Game 7 in Round 1 of the playoffs, but just fell short.

Turning point: The Raptors led by 16, their largest lead of the game, midway through the fourth quarter. The Pacers then used a 15-4 run to cut it to three. No foul was called on DeRozan for clearing Ian Mahinmi out and then he made two foul shots to make it a five-point game with only 6.5 seconds remaining.

Star of the game: DeMar DeRozan wasn’t going down without a fight. He led all scorers with 30 points, though it took him 32 shots, 10-of-32. He was perfect from the foul line, 9 for 9. In four wins this series, he averaged 23.8 points; in the three losses: 10 points.

Streaking: In the Raptors’ 21-year history, they have made the playoffs eight times. This is just the second time they have made it past the first round, and just the first time with this group’s core of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Stat(s) of note: The Raptors had 18 offensive rebounds to the Pacers’ five, and they scored 17 second-chance points. The Pacers were 0-4 in this series when failing to top 100 points. Paul George scored 191 points over seven games, the most points of any Pacer in a series. (Reggie Miller scored 181 in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.)

George also didn’t miss a free throw in the last three games, making 32 in a row. He was 61 of 64 at the line in seven games.

[Pacers season ends in Toronto, Paul George says ‘I learned what I was made of‘]

What’s next: The Pacers will return to Indianapolis and have exit interviews and locker clean out this week.

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