Both experts agree that Paul George has been the key for the Pacers, both offensively and in limiting DeMar DeRozan on defense. (joshuak8/Flickr)

Both experts agree that Paul George has been key for the Pacers, both offensively and in limiting DeMar DeRozan on defense. (joshuak8/Flickr)

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With the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers deadlocked at two games apiece, there’s no shortage of anxiety for the Raptors and their fan base. And it’s only natural for a franchise that has struggled mightily in recent postseason play. Paul George’s stifling defense and explosive offense have certainly not made life easy for the No. 2 seed. However, both our guests, The Score’s Lead Basketball Editor, Joseph Casciaro, and Ben Gibson, Assistant Editor for Pacers blog 8 Points, 9 Seconds, agree that the Raptors will emerge victorious and go on to explain why. Delectable excerpts can be found below:

Joseph Casciaro (2:14-2:37): “They’ve gotta to get something from DeMar DeRozan, because right now they’re literally getting nothing. He’s been awful offensively; Paul George has dominated him on that end with his defense. The other thing, too, is DeMar’s been very inattentive on the defensive end. He’s never been a great defender. He’s not the kind of guy that you’re gonna put on the opposing team’s best player, but he’s also not usually this bad, and he’s just been atrocious on both ends of the floor.”

JC (2:54-3:29): “I think, even outside of DeMar, this team can win with DeMar not playing well if they’re generating good looks for everyone else, if they’re moving the ball…As much as the ghosts of playoffs past haunt this team, I just think they’re such a better team than the Pacers that at some point in this series it has to show, and I think it will over the next couple games.”

JC (5:39-6:10): “The only other player I really remember doing this to DeMar consistently is Jimmy Butler whenever the Bulls play the Raptors. Paul George has just completely shut him down. He’s in his face. DeMar doesn’t have a lot of space…I don’t know if it’s the screens not being set right or what it is, but George is having no problem getting through them and just sticking with DeMar. They cannot get DeMar away from Paul George no matter what they try.”

JC (10:17-11:43): “The last couple years, the Raptors have embraced that with the whole “We, the North” thing and using the outsider mentality as a source of strength, but at the back of everyone’s mind is still this angst about the playoff ghosts and the demons and ‘Are they truly relevant, can they be relevant unless they make a deep run?’ and ‘Are they even good enough to make a deep run?’ Despite the regular-season success – and they have been one of the more consistent teams over the last three years – if you can’t get out of the first round after all this, something with the fabric of your team is obviously wrong.”

JC (15:18-15:49): “You’ll notice, a lot of times with Jonas (Valanciunas), it seems to be kind of brain farts, I guess you’d call them. Don’t get me wrong… there’s been a lot of bad calls against him this series. But there’s also been a lot of times where the hands will be up and he’ll be practicing the art of verticality and then at the last second he kind of slaps down to try to swipe the ball and those are when they call them. So for him, I guess he has to just be more disciplined, stick to the principles…and also hope that the refs give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Ben Gibson (17:47-19:36): “The defense has essentially done what they were supposed to do. We knew going into the series that the Raptors needed the 3 ball and that the Pacers defended it well, and so far that’s been the case. I think the problem, as far as the Pacers keeping things going, is not having anyone outside of Paul George that you can seem to rely on night to night for that offensive outburst…if they can get that one guy, they can win Game 5. If they don’t, it can get ugly like we saw in Games 2 and 3.”

BG (21:48-22:21): “Not having Paul George in the NBA for a year, people kind of forgot how much of a lockdown defender he could be. Just with some of the other guys on the Pacers being able to take care of Lowry or anybody else, he’s freed up to shut down DeRozan…and also limiting who DeRozan can then dump the ball to. It’s always been that way for the Pacers when Paul George was in the lineup. He can at least usually slow down the best player. Unless it’s LeBron or somebody like that, he can shut them down.”

BG (24:55-25:31): “It’s something that the Pacers did well all year. They were up there, at least for part of the season, in creating steals. And while that doesn’t always equal good defense, they were able to turn that into points at times. And especially when they can kind of get them out in front and get a guy on a fast break, I think that’s when they’ll be able to replicate what we saw in Game 1 and Game 4. But just like I’ve kind of mentioned, the inconsistency we’ve seen from them all season and even in this series. That’s what scares me more. ‘Is it gonna be another game where that doesn’t seem to happen for whatever reason for Indiana?’”

BG (30:43-31:03): “I just think the Raptors are the No. 2 seed for a reason. And in these games that they’ve lost, they’ve shot so poorly. Part of that’s the Pacers, but I think the other part is the two games that the Pacers have won, a lot of things have went their way, like shots dropping no matter how contested they were.”

Series Prediction:

Casciaro: Raptors in six

Gibson: Raptors in seven

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod