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NBA -- Playoffs ghosts continue to haunt Raptors


PhilBoxing.com




TORONTO -- When Kyle Lowry missed ​his first ​two free throws, it reminded ​Toronto Raptors fans ​of the painful first round playoff struggles the ​team has had the last two seasons.

​Th​e​ ​sad ​feeling was ​exacerbated by the fact that ​Indiana Pacers star ​Paul George was ​comfortably ​heaving 3​-​pointers from the half court line. ​The 6-foot-8 two-way guard looked loose, relaxed and ready​ to rumble​.

As George's last warm up shot from the half court went in, he ran off the court to the boos of a few Raptor fans who came early​ in the arena​. Right then, he raised both of his arms as if to coax the fans to give him some more. You can tell he was confident and he was ready for the competition ahead.

For the past two years it was Paul Pierce who thrived on the boos of the crowd and carried the Nets and the Wizards past the Raptors in the first round.

This year, it's another Paul. This time it's Paul George. George struggled in the first half, shooting 2 for 9 and logging only 6 points.​ But he rebounded in the second half and finished with 33 points as the Pacers stole Game 1, 100-90, on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.​

​With the Pacers trailing at halftime, George sank a 3 that gave Indiana its first taste of the lead, 48-45. He would continue the onslaught and kept the Pacers on top after three quarters of action, ​69-67.

​The Pacers then held off Toronto for the win. The defeat was the Raptors' third straight Game 1 loss at the Air Canada Centre and their seventh consecutive postseason defeat.

Game 2 of this best-of-7 series resumes Monday night at the Air Canada Centre.

After sustaining a compound fracture while scrimmaging with Team USA in Las Vegas, George went through extensive rehabilitation and played the entirety of the 2015-16 season. He is clearly back in All-Star form.

​"It means everything. To be out of the playoffs last year and not be able to help my team. That was a probably the biggest burden on me. Immediately after I got hurt, I thought I'm not going to be able to get this group to the playoffs. I told myself every year, I wanted to be in the playoffs, I don't want this team to go into the lottery​,​"​ George told reporters after the game.​

George further said, "That was a burden I had on my shoulders. That hurt more than the actual injury, was not getting this team to the playoffs."

Photo: NBA -- Playoffs ghosts continue to haunt Raptors.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Mark Josef.


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