Game Preview: Raptors vs. Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are back in Toronto to take on the Raptors in the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Pacers are coming off a 110-97 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Raptors are looking to bounce back from Wednesday's 110-106 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. While Toronto is trying to close out the season strong, Indiana is tied with the Miami Heat for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / TSN1050
48 minutes of basketball
Toronto opened the fourth quarter on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets leading by eight. The Raptors had a strong defensive effort in the third quarter, limiting the Hornets to just 16 points in the frame. In the end, that quarter didn't matter as the Hornets exploded for 44 points in the fourth. Charlotte connected on 8-of-10 attempts from beyond the arc in the final frame.
Despite the lopsided finish, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wasn't ready to blame the loss entirely on the fourth quarter.
"It's up to us, in our disposition, the way you start the game (is) the way you end it," Casey said. "I didn't think we started out with that same sense of urgency. We were trying to play our way into it and they came out swinging and kind of got their mojo before we did."
Although the Raptors won against the Orlando Magic on Monday, Dwane Casey was not pleased with the way the victory was earned. Despite snapping a six-game winning streak with Wednesday's loss to the Hornets, Casey was actually encouraged by what he saw on the offensive end from his team against the Hornets.
"I saw some better ball movement," Casey said. "I thought DeMar [DeRozan] was doing a better job of moving the basketball against double-teams, I liked that. The ball movement was better, it got from side to side and that's the only way you're going to score against a good defensive team like Charlotte."
DeRozan scored a game-high 28 points, but he also contributed six rebounds and eight assists. DeRozan's playmaking continues to grow as the team continues to play without Kyle Lowry who is rehabbing from wrist surgery.
Valanciunas making presence felt
Jonas Valanciunas had one of his strongest games of the season against the Hornets. In 29 minutes he finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal, but it was his play in that dominant third quarter where Toronto held the Hornets to just 16 points that really stood out.
"He was just being aggressive," DeMar DeRozan said. "He was being up on screens, being aggressive, trying to attack the ball. He was calling for the ball as well offensively. He hit some big shots. He was aggressive going to the basket. It was big for us."
Valanciunas had eight points, nine rebounds, a steal and all three blocked shots in the third where he played all 12 minutes. His efforts helped Toronto to outscore Charlotte 27-16 as they built an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter. Although the Hornets would win the game, it was one of his finest quarters on both ends of the floor.
"I thought he was blocking shots, protecting the rim," Casey said. "I thought he was up on the pick and rolls. I thought JV did an excellent job getting up on the pick and rolls."