Pacers-Raptors Preview

A Game 7 is always filled with pressure for any team involved. In this one, however, there's clearly more on the Toronto Raptors.

Even the Indiana Pacers' best player can't deny it.

Besides being a No. 2 seed and favored to oust Paul George and the Pacers, the Raptors have the benefit of playing at home for this win-or-go-home showdown but also the burden of trying to overcome the franchise's history of playoff failures.

"There's added pressure on them, being at home, their troubles getting out of the first round," George said. "It comes down to who wants it. And we feel good about it."

Toronto is the three-time reigning Atlantic Division champion but could fall in the first round for a third straight year, having been swept by Washington in 2015 after blowing a 3-2 series lead against Brooklyn in 2014. The Raptors are at risk of blowing another one after getting dominated in the second half to lose 101-83 in Indiana on Friday.

Not only have the Raptors never won a seven-game series, but the only time they've advanced out of the opening round in 21 years of existence came in 2001.

''The season would be a failure if we don't get out of the first round and give ourselves a chance to play in the second round,'' Toronto top scorer DeMar DeRozan said. ''We understand that.''

No one should be feeling more pressure than him.

While George has stepped up to average 27.5 points, DeRozan is at 15.8 - nearly eight below his season average - as he's shot 32.1 percent from the field. He had a mere eight points for the second time in three games Friday. DeRozan shot the third-most free throws of anyone during the regular season but isn't among the top 10 in the playoffs while attempting 5 per game, nearly 3 1/2 fewer than his season average.

George, meanwhile, is 55 of 58 at the foul line.

"We've got an opportunity. That's it, man," DeRozan said. "We love to play this game. Everybody loves to play the game of basketball. You can't make it seem like a funeral."

Fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry has shot 27 percent from the field in three home games during the series, not that he's been much better in Indiana at 34 percent.

Lowry and DeRozan surely will be considered the goats if their stunningly poor offensive play continues in Game 7 and the Raptors bow out.

"We've got to grind it out," Lowry said. "We've got one more game. Win or go home and that's it."

George said he's "really looking forward" to Game 7. He had one of his worst offensive games of the series Friday with 21 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but he grabbed 11 rebounds as Indiana had a 44-40 edge on the glass.

Toronto hasn't won the rebounding battle in three straight games - the Pacers won twice and lost by three on the road. The Raptors dominated the boards in the first three games behind Jonas Valanciunas' 48 rebounds, but he has 20 in the last three.

What's changed? Myles Turner joined Indiana's starting lineup in Game 4 and has helped keep Valanciunas from dominating the paint. A 20-year-old rookie who stands 6-foot-11, Turner has averaged 14.5 points on 13-of-21 shooting in the past two games while totaling 17 rebounds and seven blocks.

"We understand the physicality, the style of play and what you have to do on the defensive end to get this job done," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said.

While the Raptors are 0-2 in Game 7s, the Pacers are 3-4 and most recently won one in the first round against Atlanta in 2014. They now look to become the sixth No. 7 seed to win an opening-round series since the playoffs expanded in 1984.

"We have to go in and impose our will early," George said. "They're going to have everything on their side at home, the crowd going crazy. If we continue on how we (played) to start Game 5, take the crowd out of it, let it just be about basketball, we'll be confident to leave Toronto with the series in our hands."

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