The Toronto Raptors built an 18-4 lead before the visiting Pacers knew what hit them as they held visitors to 5 points below their previous worst this season of 38 at the half and 10 points below their prior low of 83 for a game this year as Toronto cruised to a new franchise record for wins in a season at 57 and secured first place in the Eastern Conference with the 92-73 win.
The Pacers couldn’t buy a bucket all game as no one in the starting lineup made more than two field goals and Indiana shot a season low 29.9 percent as a team.
“(The Raptors) defense has been solid, there offense has picked up. They have put together a bench that is playing very well,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan prior to the game. “They have put themselves into a position to have this kind of success.”
The Raptors defensive-minded power forward Serge Ibaka was red hot from the start, scoring 10 first quarter points and finishing with a season-high 25 points on 10-13 shooting while matching his career best of five made three-pointers. No one else scored more than 12 points on either team.
“(Ibaka) is a weapon,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “He has developed that like a lot of players that go through the league. They develop the offensive end. He is a definite three-point shooter.”
The victory also established a new franchise record for wins at home (33) with one home game remaining against Orlando on Sunday.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry played 28 minutes each and finished 12/5/8 and 9/5/9 respectively as Casey didn’t have to rely on his All-Stars to get the job done on this night.
“There is a sense of gratification of watching the growth of the program,” Casey said. “(The) development of the program from scratch and building it to the number one seed in our conference.”
However, Casey is thinking about the start of the playoffs a week from now and, unlike some other coaches, is more worried about keeping his guys ready to play than giving them any significant time off.
“That’s bull crap,” Casey said about resting guys. “We may give a guy some time, but we can’t think rest, we got to think rhythm. If you’ve been around the last couple of years, you’ve seen what shutting guys down a few games does to your body. We may rest a guy maybe a few minutes or a game, but there won’t be anybody who is going to take the rest of these next three games off because we just now in these last couple of games got a sense of rhythm.”
The Raptors don’t want to face another slow start in the first round of the playoffs.
On another note, the Raptors affiliate, Raptors 905, defeated the Erie BayHawks in the G League Eastern Conference Final 118-106 led by two-way contract player Lorenzo Brown with a game-high 28 points. The 905 will head to Austin, Texas to defend their G League Title on Sunday April 8th at 7:00 p.m. Game Two will be at the Hersey Centre in Mississauga on April 10th with Game Three, if necessary, back in Austin on April 13th.