Andrea Bargnani helped the Toronto Raptors salvage a split of a home-and-home set against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. On Monday, they'll try to take advantage of another struggling opponent as they visit the Indiana Pacers.
The Raptors (30-24), who are fifth in the East, are coming off a 115-92 win over New York on Sunday after losing 103-99 to the Knicks on the road two nights earlier.
Bargnani scored 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter Sunday while matching his career high by going 5-for-10 from 3-point range. It was in stark contrast to the forward-center's previous two games, during which he went 2-for-13 for nine total points.
"I tried to be more aggressive from the beginning," said Bargnani, the first overall selection of the 2006 NBA draft. "We were very angry after (Friday's) loss. It was a bad loss."
The Italian, though, is still only shooting 38.8 percent and averaging 10.3 points after making 42.7 percent of his shots for an 11.6 scoring average as a rookie in 2006-07. Despite the drop in production, Chris Bosh feels Bargnani is more effective if he is involved early in a game in order to make an impact.
"We have to start him off the right way," said Bosh, who added 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting on Sunday. "If he starts off the game with his feet set and he has time to make a decision and he's stepping into that 3, it's a little bit easier than falling away. That gives him a little momentum going into the rest of the game."
Bosh, the team's leader with 22.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, has been outstanding of late, making 70.4 percent (38-for-54) of his shots and averaging 26.8 points in helping Toronto win three of its last four games.
The All-Star forward-center has led Toronto to wins in each of the two season meetings with Indiana (22-34), scoring 22 points in each contest. He also added 16 rebounds in the most recent matchup, a 104-93 victory at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 14.
The Pacers, losers of 11 of their last 14 games, are also coming off a split of a home-and-home series. They lost 102-91 at New Jersey on Saturday after winning 113-103 on Friday.
Indiana is 11th in the East, but only 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Philadelphia.
If the Pacers are going to improve their playoff chances, they could use some better results at home. They have managed to win consecutive games at Conseco three times, but are 11-16 there. Indiana is tied with New York for the second-fewest home wins in the East, ahead of only Miami.
Danny Granger, the Pacers' top scorer with 18.2 points per game, scored 29 on Saturday.
He had 15 points and nine rebounds in the last meeting with the Raptors after going 3-for-12 for 12 points in a 110-101 loss Nov. 16 at Air Canada Centre.
The teams will close out their four-game season series there on Friday.
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