Paul George on Game 3 loss: ‘We didn’t do our job’

Paul George was obviously frustrated after losing for the second straight game. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Paul George was obviously frustrated after losing for the second straight game. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

This one was all too familiar for the Pacers. After doing what they needed to do in the first games of this Round 1 series — get at least one win on the road to take home-court advantage — they relaxed in a comfortable environment where they should have taken off.

This was supposed to be the Pacers’ time to pounce, to play off the energy of the home crowd wearing mustard XL t-shirts, and put the Toronto Raptors on their heels by going ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. But instead on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they were far too loose and casual with the ball, and it was their opponent playing their butt off.

“They just outplayed us in most areas,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said afterwards. “We turned the ball over too much. Their big guys are problems for us at the rim, and you just have to give them credit. They outplayed us in most areas.”

I hit on it after their Game 1 win — this team is best as the underdog and with their backs against the wall. (Yes, it’s a boring cliché. But true for this team.)

Toronto was the team that came out and looked confident yet comfortable, physical but in control. They maintained their poise throughout in an unfriendly building fully aware with the pressure that comes with playing in the postseason.

George's look for Game 3.

George’s look for Game 3.

“We didn’t do our job,” Paul George said bluntly. “This one, this sucks. We didn’t take care of business on our home court and we were in the driver’s seat.”

Remember what George said several months ago, how this team has “no toughness?” That was evident again Thursday night to both the sell-out crowd of 18,165 and the millions watching at home.

The Pacers got caught up in early frustration, with the whistle and how their shots weren’t falling. George was issued a technical foul in the first quarter, Rodney Stuckey one not two minutes into the second period. (Turner later earned one, the first of his career, in the third.)

“It’s the playoffs,” said George. “You kinda got to let some stuff slide. We’re playing for something that means something.”

“You can’t be worried about the five guys on the floor, two of them All-Stars, and the other three guys’ whistles,” C.J. Miles, who missed all three of his shots, added. “That’s too many people to be thinking about.”

[At the Buzzer: R1 G3 — Raptors 101, Pacers 85]

It was a poor start dominated by turnovers. They gave it up 12 times in the first half leading to 17 points for the visitors.

“You definitely want to be able to come out and hit first one of these games, and we got to do that,” Miles continued. “Especially at home, because they thinking that coming into our building, they got to be able to withstand with the crowd behind us. So they came out and started swinging haymakers first. We either need to hit back, or duck and dodge and hit them with something of our own.”

The Pacers fell behind in the first period, as they consistently have done in this series. It was only seven but still, they’re having to dig themselves out of a hole time and time again. Then, the hole grew to 17 by halftime.

“We had some momentum going, we were trying to make that home-run play instead of just sticking to it, making one more (pass) and getting guys open,” Solomon Hill, who contributed eight points and three rebounds off the bench, said. “We kept trying to go for that home-run play when we were down 15.”

“I like the activity, our intensity, and our approach. I think it just set the tone for the entire game,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “… I liked our effort and attention to detail on the defensive end.”

Just before the start of the second half, the players gathered around the free throw line. What was said, I asked Miles…

“Try not to get beat by 40 (smiling),” he quipped. Then, he explained. “Find a way to tighten up. That’s the biggest thing. We knew we had plenty of time. … The biggest thing for us is to find a way to control what we can control.”

Rookie Myles Turner had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks — and picked up his first technical foul. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Rookie Myles Turner had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks — and picked up his first technical foul. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

What the Pacers can control is their energy level, and rookie Myles Turner, who started the half in place of Lavoy Allen, provided just the spark they needed. He scored seven of his 17 points and blocked two shots in the quarter — a 12-minute stretch where they cut their hole to a manageable 12 points.

The Raptors, meantime, then rattled off eight unanswered points and the game was in hand. (Fans began making their way home with 5:26 left in the game, down 19.)

In this one, the Pacers coughed it up 17 times costing them 26 points as the Raptors only had 11 giveaways. More to that, the Raptors had active hands in the passing lane that didn’t allow the Pacers to get comfortable or clean looks.

And, the Raptors were the ones getting the loose balls.

“This is playoff basketball and that’s what it’s all about,” George said on not winning the 50/50  balls. “… We’re treating this like it’s a regular season game. We’re failing to be the physical team, and I think there’s one guy in particular that is doing an amazing — and that’s (Jonas) Valanciunas. We got to match his physicality and we’re not doing that.”

[Quotable: Pacers and Raptors after Game 3]

It was interesting, too, how in addition to starting Turner in the second half, Vogel moved to essentially a seven-man rotation. The four core starters, plus Turner, Solomon Hill, and Rodney Stuckey. Vogel tends to stay with what they have done and what works, but he made a change based on how the game (and series) was going. Miles and Ty Lawson didn’t see the court in the second half.

(Allen was scoreless in nine minutes.)

What many have been pleading is for the Pacers never to sit George Hill, Paul George, and Monta Ellis together, especially not for an extended period. When they did in the second quarter, that’s when the Raptors pushed their lead to 17.

George Hill scored eight of his 13 points in the second half and he was one of just three Pacers in double figures.

The Raptors’ backcourt of Kyle Lowry (21 points, eight assists), and DeMar DeRozan (21 points) produced, but it was less than their combined averaged during the regular season (45) and they scored 21 each shooting below 38 percent.

After having two days between Games 2 and 3, the teams don’t have much time to rest and prepare for Game 4, back here at the Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon. They have no excuse to leave it all on the floor in that one.

“Hopefully as group we respond pissed off,” George said. “That’s the only way to overcome a loss like this. We missed a great opportunity, simple as that.

“The only way to respond in Game 4 is to be pissed off, do everything a lot tougher, play a lot harder. We got to be the first team on the floor, diving for loose balls. We have to be that team.”

The Pacers have an estimated 37.6 percent change of winning the series, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

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