Pacers need win over Raptors and need it now
TORONTO — The Indiana Pacers have one more chance to figure out the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
It is a game the Pacers (37-40) need to win because they have slipped out of a playoff spot after losing four in a row and six of their past seven games. They have five games to play.
“The game tomorrow night is going to be a competitive dogfight,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Monday after practice.
This will be the third meeting between the teams in 16 days after they had not met since the Raptors defeated the Pacers in seven games last season in a first-round playoff series.
The Raptors have won both meetings this season — both in Toronto — including a 111-100 victory Friday.
The Raptors beat the Pacers by turning up their level of play in the third quarter.
“That’s the thing that we have seen from teams is (the) second half the level of play, you expect that to go up,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “Teams have done that and we haven’t necessarily responded quick enough and long enough in these games, and you have to do that. I think in any game, but certainly these games where we are playing against solid teams.
“You just can’t give Toronto 16 offensive rebounds, 20 second-chance points, can’t turn the ball over 14 times and you can’t allow them to march to the free-throw line 35 times. It’s a good team, and a good team is going to beat you every time.”
The Pacers then lost 135-130 to the Cavaliers on Sunday in a double-overtime game to remain in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. They have the same record as the Miami Heat, who have the tiebreaker and thus occupy the eighth and final playoff spot.
“If we play like that to finish this season out, I’ll be happy with where we land and our results,” said Paul George, who scored a season-best 43 points Sunday. “I think if we give this effort, we’ll make the playoffs.”
The Raptors (47-30) have won eight of their past nine games and are third in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the fourth-place Washington Wizards and three games behind the first-place Boston Celtics. The Raptors own the tiebreaker with the Wizards.
The Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday and the Wizards lost to the Golden State Warriors.
DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points against the Pacers on Friday to tie Vince Carter’s club record of 30 games in a season with at least 30 points in a game.
DeRozan took a different tack Sunday, scoring 17 points and adding nine assists. Eight of the assists came in the first half when he scored six points, going 2 of 4 from the field.
With DeRozan being the distributor, Serge Ibaka led the Raptors with 24 points. DeRozan and Ibaka were among the four Toronto starters who did not play in the fourth quarter.
“I think me being aggressive offensively just opens up so many options for me to create for other guys and get other guys easier shots,” DeRozan said. “That is one thing I try to keep in mind and understanding that when I’m in the post a lot, I want the double teams to come, I want to get trapped and come off screen and rolls because it makes my job easier finding everyone else.
“It’s something I look forward to, and it’s always on my mind when I go out there and play.”
Reserve guard Lance Stephenson played his first game for the Pacers on Sunday since being signed Thursday. Stephenson, who played four seasons for the Pacers before leaving as a free agent in 2014, scored four points in 18 minutes and added three assists and three rebounds.
“I thought our chemistry was as if he was in the Pacers uniform all season,” George said of Stephenson. “His energy and his impact and playing in the fast break and his ability to drive and pass, you saw what he brought instantly, and we need that. It definitely fired me up. That’s my hype man.”
The Pacers again will be without Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle), who will miss his fifth consecutive game, and Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf), who will miss his eighth straight.
McMillan hopes for a carryover from the loss to the Cavaliers.
“If we play the way we played (Sunday) in our remaining games,” he said, “we’re going to be OK.”