Valančiūnas bounces back to help Toronto make history with play-off series win
Lithuanian NBA star Jonas Valančiūnas’ stellar rebounding played a key part in firing the Toronto Raptors to their first play-off series victory since 2001, with a Game 7 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Raptors team-mate DeMar DeRozan was the star of the show on Sunday with 30 points for Toronto, but Valančiūnas was back to his dominant best in the paint with 15 rebounds, 10 points and a block.
It was Toronto’s first ever victory in a best of seven series and sets up a home opener with the Miami Heat on Tuesday at the Air Canada Center.
The Pacers ran down the Raptors in the final quarter narrowing Toronto’s lead to just 3 points in the final few minutes with the Raptors scoring just 11 points in the fourth quarter.
"We stunk it up in the fourth quarter. It wasn't pretty, believe me, but our defence carried us down the stretch,” said Raptor’s coach Dwane Casey.
Valunčiūnas power in the paint won the Raptors the battle of the boards for the first time in four games, with 49 rebounds to Indiana’s 38. Ably assisted by Bismack Biyombo, who hauled down 11 rebounds, Toronto’s rebounding and work rate made up for the team’s 38% shooting from the field.
Toronto now face the prospect of trying to contain Heat star Dwane Wade and Raptor’s coach Casey is not underestimating the task: "We've kind of been watching them out of one side of our eye. Wade is back to being a young guy."