The Indiana Pacers were in full bounce back mode tonight, closing out the Toronto Raptors to split their two game series. The Pacers held Toronto to just 17 fourth quarter points, notable in a game completely dominated by both offenses to that point. It was a format that surprisingly favored the Pacers, especially as they lost Domantas Sabonis in the first quarter with a knee contusion.
The Pacers led 31-28 late in the first quarter, having shot well from deep, getting solid outings to that point from Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon. Sabonis had scored 11 in the quarter when he knocked knees with Kyle Lowry. He left the game and eventually went back to the locker room, not favoring the knee in any noticeable way.
He was eventually ruled out of the game. Adrian Wojnarowski then tweeted out that Sabonis will have an MRI tomorrow morning to assess the situation, making it feel a bit more concerning than it appeared on the floor. Afterwards, Nate Bjorkgren was noncommittal, echoing Woj’s report.
X-Rays on left knee of Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis reveal no structural damage, source tells ESPN. An MRI is planned for Tuesday morning. Sabonis left game after banging knee vs. Raptors tonight.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 26, 2021
On the floor, the Pacers didn’t lose much of a step heading into the second quarter, in large part thanks to the play of Goga Bitadze, who had stepped in for Sabonis in the first. Bitadze logged seven minutes, scoring six points with a block and helping Indiana expand their lead from three to seven.
The Pacers were on a roll in the second quarter, going up by as many as 14 in the quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the half on a season high 70 first half points. Not to be outdone, the Raptors had a response in the third, scoring 11 straight to make it a two point game early in the quarter.
Despite constantly having the Raptors breathing down their necks, the Pacers never relented their lead in the third thanks in large part to Bjorkgren picking up a technical foul after being fed up with the way the game had been called. Immediately, the officials relented, sending Brogdon to the line for a pair of free throws to halt the run.
They would begin work their way to line with consistency from that point, shooting 10 more free throws in the third, helping them keep the Raptors at arms’ length while Toronto got a four-point play from Matt Thomas and four points to end the quarter from Yuta Watanabe, cutting the lead to a single point heading into the fourth.
Once there, the Raptors finally broke through, going ahead on a Lowry bucket, but it proved short lived when Bitadze tossed up a reverse layup in response to tie the game. After a steal, Myles Turner fought hard for an offensive rebound, drawing a foul and splitting a trip at the line, putting Indiana ahead for good.
From there, Turner lived at the line, shooting 10 of his 16 free throws in the quarter, slowly ticking the lead up while he and the Pacers forced stops, including his third block, stuffing Norman Powell at the rim to sink the defensive dagger.
Huge block/contest from Turner to force a miss here: pic.twitter.com/I16BjBxMpZ— Tony East (@TEastNBA) January 26, 2021
Things got a little chippy from that point. Lowry was eventually ejected and Nick Nurse drew a technical of his own. This all allowed Indiana to run up the score, and their free throw attempts, to close out the 129-114 win. The Pacers wrapped up with 45 free throw attempts, their most since April 2013.
Turner’s 16 attempts led the way, hitting 11 of them as part of his 21-point, 10-rebound double double. He also had three blocks. Turner finished 5-9 from the floor, and for the first time this year, didn’t attempt a three point shot. He didn’t need to, however, as he did a great job around the rim, finishing 5-7.
The inflated free throw attempts late helped Brogdon complete a career high night of 36 points and nine assists, bouncing back in a huge way after his awful game yesterday. With Sabonis out early (despite his own bounce back, going 2-2 from three), Brogdon’s night was that much more important. He shot 10-17 from the floor and 3-5 from three point range, eight points coming in the paint.
In rare form, both Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott had off nights, finishing with seven points and 1-7 from three point range, which again, made the night the bench had that much more important. Bjorkgren said before the game he planned to extend the rotation. He did so by playing 11 guys, including 10 in extended minutes.
Lamb led the way with 22 points on 7-12 shooting, taking full advantage of the team’s ability to get to the line in the third, making all five of his free throw attempts. Aaron Holiday and Bitadze each had 10 points. Holiday had a steal and Bitadze had a pair of blocks. T.J. McConnell had two of each, scoring nine, including a three pointer for good measure. Cassius Stanley wrapped up Indiana’s block party with one of his own.
The Pacers won tonight despite allowing the Raptors to dominate the 50/50 possessions early in the game, bouncing back in their ability to score off turnovers, outscoring the Raptors 27-14 despite losing the turnover battle 15-12. They also won the rebounding battle 45-39 even though they allowed 13 offensive rebounds to the Raptors.
With the win, the Pacers keep alive a tiebreaker opportunity against Toronto, tying their series at 1-1 with one more game to be played in the second half of the season. They’ll do this two-game series over on Wednesday and Friday, when they face the Charlotte Hornets on the road.