Pacers hope to start winning streak in Toronto

TORONTO — The Indiana Pacers will be trying to start another winning streak Wednesday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors, who have lost two in a row.

The Pacers had their season-best, seven-game winning streak stopped in dramatic fashion Tuesday night when the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers earned a 92-91 victory on a tip-in at the final buzzer.

The Pacers’ streak was the first time they had won seven consecutive games since Jan. 26-Feb. 6, 2017.

The loss was surprising because the Cavaliers were winning for only the eighth time in 31 games this season. With Toronto coming up on the schedule the next night, there were concerns that it might be a trap game for Indiana.

“We’ve been able to win some games,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said before the game. “And we can’t get bored with winning and assume it’s going to happen regardless of who’s coming in to play.”

The Pacers (20-11) shot just 39.8 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from 3-point range and 61.9 percent on free throws.

The lack of execution on offense was particularly painful for the Pacers when Victor Oladipo missed two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining that would have given them a three-point lead.

It was the first loss for the Pacers in the 11 times they have held their opponents to 97 or fewer points this season.

“I’ve got to be better,” said Oladipo, who scored 12 points. “I’ve got to be better down the stretch. I’ve got to make free throws, that’s my job as a leader on this team to step up and make big free throws and make big shots and make good decisions down the stretch. This one’s on me, man, I’ll be better in future.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors are coming off losses to the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets on Friday and Sunday respectively after starting the four-game trip with impressive wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors.

After the game Sunday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse criticized the lack of foul calls against Kawhi Leonard. Nurse was fined $15,000 for publicly criticizing the officials.

“You can’t tell me that one of the best players in the league takes 100 hits and shoots four free throws, and they handed him two for charity at the end,” Nurse said after the game on Sunday. “So, he was going to have two free throws for the game with all the physical hits and holding and driving and chucking and doubling and slapping and reaching and all the stuff. It’s been going on all year. I do not understand why they are letting everyone play one of the best players in the league so physically. I do not understand it.”

Nurse add little to add on Tuesday. “I just thought it was time to do it,” he said. “I’m gonna back my players.”

Leonard appreciated the backing. “We’re playing it and we might see it a certain way and we always feel like we’re right on the floor,” the forward said. “But when you have your coach watching it and seeing the same things that you’re feeling then it’s great.”

The Raptors, meanwhile, are dealing with injuries.

Kyle Lowry (left thigh contusion) has missed the past two games and Nurse said that the point guard is “maybe more questionable than probable” for Wednesday.

Pascal Siakam (stiff back), Fred VanVleet (sore back) and Danny Green (who was poked in the eye Sunday) could be in the lineup Wednesday. Serge Ibaka (swollen right knee) is listed as questionable.

Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb) is out.

But Norman Powell (left shoulder subluxation) is expected to play Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 5.

The game Wednesday will be the first of three meetings between the Pacers and Raptors this season, followed by games Jan. 6 again at Scotiabank Arena and Jan. 23 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Toronto has won the season-series against Indiana the past four seasons, including a 3-1 advantage last season.