Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Toronto 120113

Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 at Toronto, 7 p.m.

Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (7-3) vs. Raptors (4-7)

By Conrad Brunner

SCOUTING THE PACERS: There's little question about what has the Pacers off to their best start in five years. The defense has been remarkably effective, holding opponents to fewer than 90 points six times and to less than 40 percent shooting six times. Since allowing 118 in a loss to the Heat, the Pacers have clamped down even more, yielding averages of 82.8 points and .395. The offense has showed signs of coming around, as well. The Pacers shot .459 and scored 96 in a 12-point victory over Atlanta Wednesday as Danny Granger emerged from a season-long shooting slump with 24 points on 9-of-16 from the field. Roy Hibbert continued his consistent production with 12 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks and has six double-doubles. Lance Stephenson produced a career-high 12 points off the bench; he had totaled five points on 1-of-14 shooting in his first six appearances. The Pacers have gotten a jolt of energy from Jeff Foster's return from a sore lower back. In four games he has totaled 53 minutes, 12 points and 19 rebounds and the Pacers have outscored opponents by 35 points with him on the floor. Jeff Foster did not make the trip to rest his back.

SCOUTING THE RAPTORS: This is the second and final trip to Toronto for the Pacers, who won 90-85 on Dec. 28 in Air Canada Centre behind Granger, who scored nine of his 21 points in the final 4½ minutes, and David West, who hit the clinching jumper with nine seconds left to stave off a Raptors rally. Toronto is coming off its first back-to-back-to-back, losing the final two (to Washington and Sacramento) and with one day off face a back-to-back with the Pacers and Bulls, so this will be their fourth game in five nights. Point guard Jose Calderon is fourth in the NBA in assists (9.0) and first in assist:turnover ratio (5.5:1), but they're otherwise hurting. Leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (22.3 points) left the Sacramento game Wednesday late in the third quarter with a strained left calf and did not return. DeMar Derozan, who sparked the Raptors' fourth-quarter rally in the previous meeting with the Pacers, has averaged just 8.8 points on .309 shooting in the last five games, racking up 15 turnovers in the process. Center Amir Johnson has been productive, averaging 10.4 points and 10.2 rebounds in the last five, and Linas Kleiza returned after missing 49 consecutive games with a knee injury to score 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench against the Kings.

KEY MATCHUP: Toronto prides itself on protecting the basket, leading the NBA in fewest points in the paint allowed (32.7), and the Raptors have held six opponents to fewer than 30. The Pacers pride themselves on dominating things inside, going 6-0 when they outscore opponents in the lane, where they average 40.0 per game. They nudged the Raptors 34-32 in the first meeting.

QUOTE MARKS: "The sky's the limit. This team has a lot of talent and our expectations can be great." - Jeff Foster

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Danny Granger (sprained L ankle) is probable. For the Raptors, F Andrea Bargnani (strained L calf), G Jerryd Bayless (sprained L ankle) and C Aaron Gray (rapid heart rate) are day-to-day.

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 6:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play.

INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.