The Indiana Pacers played a familiar script in their revenge win against the Toronto Raptors at home, weathering a late surge by the Raptors similar to Cleveland's own push on Sunday, for the 86-79 victory. The Pacers appeared in control, leading 71-54 with under a minute in the third quarter, especially considering the was only as close as it was thanks to DeMar DeRozan's big third quarter, where he scored the Raptors' last 17 of the third quarter. DeRozan scored 28 on the night. He got to the line 11 times, put Paul George in foul trouble (and effectively out of the game), and found a nice groove shooting despite being 9-22 from the floor.
Indiana managed to adjust to DeRozan's scoring punch by holding him scoreless in the fourth quarter, but did less than stellar work in other areas in the fourth quarter, committing four turnovers, getting blocked three times, and shooting just 1-4 in the first four minutes as Toronto cut their deficit to single digits. The Raptors managed to score on five straight possessions to make it an 83-77 game with 2:15 remaining. Paul George responded with a jumper that helped hold Toronto at arm's length with some solid defensive possessions holding Toronto to two free throws in the final two minutes as they were able to seal the win.
George found himself in foul trouble all night, unable to adjust early to the touch fouls, logging only 28 minutes and winding up with five fouls. The fouls took him out of whatever rhythm he might've had, but considering George has now had five games shooting under 50% in a stretch he's averaging just 16.8 points, six points off his season total, making it hard to imagine all of his struggles tonight came from foul trouble given the slump he finds himself in right now.
George had just 11 points on 4-12 shooting, with DeRozan successfully drawing four of George's fouls, sending him to the bench time and time again. Lance Stephenson on the other hand was engaged early and often, flirting with another triple double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He fell short on assists with eight. He was finding guys in good positions all night with some sharp passes to five different players for buckets.
Danny Granger did a great job spelling for George, scoring 13 points with six rebounds. Granger's scoring (this is his fifth straight double digit game) has been a pleasant but expected development, but his activity and ability to play for such long stretches have really made the difference for the Pacers in games where George has struggled. Granger played 32 minutes, a season high, breaking his previous high of 26 minutes, set in Sunday's win over Cleveland.
Roy Hibbert led the Pacers in scoring tonight with 22 points, getting to the line for 12-13 shooting, while also grabbing eight rebounds. Hibbert did a much better job tonight of foul management, landing only two, while avoiding Toronto attempts to bait him into others. He also had three blocks on a night the Pacers had eight as a team.
One of the key advantages the Pacers found tonight was their ability to outrebound Toronto. Indiana had entered their third game against Toronto coming up short on the boards in each of the first two, but played a strong game on the boards, winning the rebounding battle by 17, including pulling in 11 offensive rebounds while Toronto had just five. David West led the way with 12 (and three blocks himself), making up for a poor night shooting the ball, scoring just four points on 2-6 shooting. Luis Scola helped out with scoring as well as rebounding, scoring eight and grabbing nine boards.
The Pacers lost the turnover battle pretty handily 16-9, but did a much better job holding Toronto off of transition and points off turnovers, with the Raptors scoring 13 and just five fast break points, both big improvements over last week's game. Toronto also shot just 37% and were held under 80 points, to become the third time in the last five games Indiana has held an opponent under 80. No surprise Indiana is 9-0 when they reach this mark.
DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 28, but a big difference as well in tonight's game was Indiana's ability to limit Terrence Ross, who had a big game in their win a week ago. Patrick Patterson did come off the bench for 20, but he was one of just three Raptors in double figures with Kyle Lowry pitching in 16. The starting trio of Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, and Amir Johnson scored just seven points.
Indiana will have a quick turnaround as they play their fourth game in five nights in Atlanta for their first season meeting with the Hawks tomorrow night. Even assuming there are no travel issues as the team flies out of Indianapolis, the Pacers won't have an easy time beating Atlanta. The Hawks are losers of three straight and will be without All-Star big man Al Horford for the season.