The tied for first-place Indiana Pacers rolled into the Air Canada Center to take on the shorthanded Toronto Raptors, but couldn’t handle what was left of Head Coach Dwane Casey’s starting lineup. Head Coach Frank Vogel’s players did find a lot of their own missing offense, however, the Raptors DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas scored 20 points or better each and Toronto shot over 47 percent from the field as a team to put away the Pacers 102-94 to the cheers of an energized sold out home crowd.
“You got to give credit to the Raptors for playing a heck of a basketball game,” Vogel said. “In particular the three starters that they did have in the lineup, I thought they really really stepped up and all three of those guys DeMar, Terrence and Jonas just played out of their minds. I thought we were still continuing to get back on track, but it wasn’t enough to beat one of the best home teams in the NBA in the second half of the season.”
The Raptors were without starting point guard Kyle Lowry for the second game in a row and starting power forward Amir Johnson was injured in the first quarter of their last game and wasn’t available either. Toronto has now beaten the Rockets and the Pacers over the past three days led by backup point guard Greivis Vasquez and the remaining three-fifths of their starting lineup.
“They came in and played with a lot of confidence, a lot of energy,” Casey said. “I thought Valanciunas came in and played with all the confidence in the world against one of the best centers in the league in Roy Hibbert and T Ross also against one of the better defenders in Paul George. (DeRozan had) 9 assists, something else to help us win, make winning plays and that is what he did. He did a great job of finding people, setting people up.”
The Pacers have been having trouble finding their offense over the past 10 games, but not so much on this night. George led all scorers with 26 points and got to the free throw line 10 times and David West was a beast inside scoring 21 points. The 94 points the Pacers scored would normally be enough for their stingy defense to steal a win. However, Evan Turner’s struggles continued as he shot just 1-8 from the field for just 2 points and in a game this close, the Pacers needed the production he was giving them for the first 11 games after the trade (9.5 points).
The Raptors also got contributions from a number of other players.
“Everybody came in and contributed,” Casey said. “Chuck Hayes came in and held fort in the post defensively. Nando (De Colo) came in and did an excellent job offensively. He got the tempo where we needed it.”
John Salmons, who didn’t score a point, impacted this game in a big way as well as the ‘smash-mouth’ Pacers tried to impose their will on Toronto.
“It was just physical play that got a little out of hand,” Salmons said. “We aren’t going to back down from anybody, not going to back down, not going to quit, we going to be there, we going to fight.”
George and Salmons received technical fouls, but there was no way this 12-year veteran was going to back down to a 23-year-old or anyone else.
This game was tied heading into the fourth quarter and was tied at 94 with just over 3 minutes left, but it was the Raptors led by Valanciunas with 2 buckets and 3 boards, Ross with 2 made free throws and 2 rebounds and a rebound, an assist, and 2 made free throws by DeRozan that closed this game out on an 8-0 run for the win.
The Pacers return home to play the Hawks on Sunday.
The Raptors head to Milwaukee for a game on Saturday.
Raptors Playoffs: Craziness And Responsibility, John Salmons
It’s about to get crazy at the Air Canada Center in Toronto and Raptors veteran John Salmons is ready for some playoff excitement. “I feel like the fans are going to be crazy,” Salmons said. “Just walking on the street is going to be crazy, it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and that’s the fun part.”
Raptors Dwight Buycks, Toronto Is The Same As The States
“It is just being back home in the States is always better than being overseas,” Buycks said. “(Canada) is pretty much the same, actually I feel like I am in the States.