Paul George missed the majority of the 2014-2015 NBA season after suffering a horrific leg injury the summer before the season.
He returned to form this season, averaging more than 20 points per game and consideration for Comeback Player of the Year. Though there were ups and downs, George has the Indiana Pacers back in the playoffs.
Indiana (45-37) holds the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and will square off with the No. 2-seeded Toronto Raptors (56-26) in the first round.
The series begins Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Toronto beat Indiana 3-1 in the regular season series. The Pacers won at home, 106-90 in December. They took the Raptors to overtime in the other meeting in Indianapolis, losing 101-94.
The Raptors won the two meetings in Toronto by an average of 11 points. They racked up a 32-9 home record this season, including a 22-4 mark at the Air Canada Centre since the beginning of January.
This will be the Pacers’ first playoff appearance since 2014, when they faced the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight postseason.
The Raptors are making their third straight playoff appearance. They were swept out of the first round by the Washington Wizards last season, despite holding the No. 4 seed.
In 2014, the Raptors were third in the East and got out to a 3-2 series lead on the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn rallied to win the series in seven games.
The Raptors have not won a playoff series since the 2000-2001 season, which was the only series win in franchise history.
The Raptors have won four straight heading into the playoffs, and seven out of their last nine. Both losses were by single digits on the road against playoff teams.
The Pacers have won three straight and six of their last seven, including a 97-92 win at Milwaukee Wednesday night. Four starters — Paul George, Monta Ellis, George Hill and Ian Mahinmi — did not play. CJ Miles, a vital bench player, also got some extra rest before Saturday’s Game 1 in Toronto.
Paul George led the Pacers this season win 23.1 points per game. He is shooting 41 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range.
Toronto’s leading scorer this season was DeMar DeRozan at 23.5 points per game. Kyle Lowry was right behind him at 21.2 per game. That backcourt averaged a combined 48 PPG in three against Indiana this season. Both sat out the most recent game for extra rest.
Indiana’s starting center, Ian Mahinmi, will have to deal with Jonas Valanciunas. He averages 12.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Mahinmi averages 9.3 and 7.1, respectively.
That could be an important matchup for the Pacers, as they are 14-5 when Mahinmi goes for 12 points or more.
Former Pacer big-man Luis Scola left Indiana for Toronto in the offseason. He put up 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this season. He only played in two of the four games against Indiana, scoring four and nine points. His season-high point total was 22, which he did three separate times.
Rookie Myles Turner will be getting his first playoff experience. He spent a good portion of the season in the Pacers’ starting lineup, but has since been moved to a bench role. He averaged 10 points this season, but has struggled as of late.
Kyle Beery is the Indiana Pacers Beat Writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Indiana Pacers with full media access. You can follow @BeeryK and @IndySportsRep on Twitter.
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