(AP) — The Indiana Pacers just failed to run their winning streak to a season-best six games. The same thing happened the last time they faced the Toronto Raptors.
Indiana, though, has a chance to extend a different streak Friday night when it goes for its fourth consecutive road win over the Raptors.
Going for its first 6-0 run since a seven-game surge last April 9-19, Indiana (36-22) lost 99-91 to Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
With center Roy Hibbert serving a one-game suspension for his actions in Tuesday’s skirmish versus Golden State, the Pacers allowed 50 points in the paint – nearly 15 more than their NBA-best season average of 35.3 – and fell percentage points behind the New York Knicks for second in the Eastern Conference.
“Roy Hibbert makes a big difference in our team,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Everybody says he’s having a bad year, but he’s having a good year. We have the No. 1 defense in the league and he’s a big part of it.”
Indiana will make its first visit to Toronto since a 90-88 season-opening victory on Oct. 31. Pacers forward David West led all scorers in that contest with 25 points, while Hibbert and Paul George each chipped in with 14.
The Raptors (23-35), though, have won the last two meetings. They are the only team with two victories visiting the Pacers and one of four teams in the East with two wins against them.
After ending their four-game skid in their series with a 74-72 victory on Nov. 13, the Raptors also snapped Indiana’s 15-game home unbeaten streak with a 100-98 overtime win on Feb. 8.
Newcomer Rudy Gay scored 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter of that game, including a jumper with 1.7 seconds left, to kick-start Toronto’s season high-tying five-game winning streak.
The Raptors, though, have dropped three of four since that surge. They are six games back of eighth-place Milwaukee after losing 103-92 at Cleveland on Wednesday.
“Winning fixes everything,” said Gay, who is averaging 20.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 12 games since being acquired from Memphis on Jan. 30. “This is still new to me. That’s why I get so frustrated when things happen out there. I’m still trying to figure things out. It’s definitely not easy losing. I’m not here to lose. I don’t think anybody else is here to lose.”
Gay is doing his part, as is DeMar DeRozan, who has 59 points in the last two games. The Raptors, though, will likely need stronger bench play on Friday when they face one of the deepest teams in the league.
“We can’t play our starters 48 minutes,” coach Dwane Casey said after Toronto’s reserves were outscored 39-8 by the Cavs’ bench. “I wish we could. The guys coming off the bench have to be ready to play.”
Toronto’s bench has outscored Indiana’s reserves 93-57 in 2012-13.
Danny Granger could give the Pacers’ second unit a boost after scoring 12 points in 19 minutes – both season highs – on Thursday. It was his third game after missing the first 55 with a knee injury.
The Raptors last beat Indiana three times in a season in 2007-08, when they won three of four.