Mahinmi displays backbone as he stars for Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS • Ian Mahinmi has spent most of his National Basketball Association career in the shadows, but on Saturday he enjoyed a turn in the spotlight.

The 29-year-old centre overcame a wonky back with the performance of his career to push the Indiana Pacers into a 2-2 tie in their Eastern Conference first-round play-off series against the second-seeded Toronto Raptors.

Mahinmi, who had his playing time limited earlier in the series because of a sprained lower back, recorded play-off highs of 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Indiana's 100-83 win.

"I can't take the credit for this today," a modest Mahinmi told reporters at what he said was his first post-season press conference.

"Most of my shots were dunks and shots under the rim where I just had to go up and dunk it. Today my team-mates did an awesome job at finding me. Today was a total team effort."

The Frenchman - who helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2010-11 NBA championship in a supporting role - played just 17 minutes in the series opener, 22 minutes in Game 2 and 24 minutes in Game 3. But he played 33 minutes in the home win on Saturday.

George Hill also had 22 points for the Pacers, while Paul George added 19.

"Everybody has to be a scoring option for us, and today they were," said George. "Ian played amazing. You don't expect 22, 10 and five from him.

"Guys responded to our loss in Game 3, the ball moved and we made shots."

Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with 16 points.

But their All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (eight points) and Kyle Lowry (12 points) continued to struggle in the post-season.

The duo were the fourth-highest scoring pair in the regular season, combining to average 44.7 points. Yet they have managed just an average of 28.8 points in this series.

They failed to make any of their seven three-point attempts on Sunday. DeRozan failed to get to the free-throw line for just the third time all season, and had more turnovers (six) than assists (four).

Toronto's 19 turnovers were converted by the Pacers into 25 points.

"We didn't match their intensity nor their force," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "We didn't respond when Indiana threw the first punch."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Mahinmi displays backbone as he stars for Pacers'. Print Edition | Subscribe