TORONTO â€” DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points to lift the Toronto Raptors to a 116-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The Raptors (41-29) got a balanced contribution in their third win in six games. Serge Ibaka had 16 points, while Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and 13 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll and Jakob Poeltl had 12 points apiece, and Cory Joseph and Norman Powell chipped in with 11 apiece.
Paul George led the Pacers (35-34) with 18 points.
The meeting was the first between the two teams since Toronto dispatched Indiana in seven games in last season’s opening round of the playoffs. It also came a few nights after the Raptors’ post-game meeting following their ugly 21-point rout by Oklahoma City on Thursday. They bounced back to beat the Pistons 87-75 the next night in Detroit.
They kept their proverbial foot on the accelerator Sunday, racing out to their biggest halftime lead â€” 17 points â€” since Jan. 15 versus New York.
Leading 91-73 heading into the fourth, the Raptors would stretch their advantage to 24 points on a three-pointer by Patrick Patterson with 6:05 left to play. With the game well in hand, Raptors coach Dwane Casey sat all his starters moments later.
The Raptors, who’ve been struggling from long range without all-star guard Kyle Lowry, shot 12-for-27 from three-point range, easily their best performance in his absence. The Raptors shot 49 per cent from the field, and outrebounded Indiana 51-33.
With 12 games left on the regular season, it’s all about post-season positioning. The Raptors began the day in fourth in the East, two games behind third-place Washington. The Pacers were sixth.
The Raptors’ task is made tougher with the absence of Lowry. They’re 8-5 since Lowry’s wrist surgery that’s expected to keep him out the rest of the regular season. The all-star guard, dressed in a dark suit jacket, joined the coaches in huddles Sunday, and poked Casey on the shoulder to point out something during one timeout.
“I’d much rather have him in a No. 7 uniform than standing over in our coaching huddles at any time, ’cause he’s that valuable to us,” Casey said.
The Raptors outhustled the Pacers from the opening whistle, outrebounding them 20-5 in the firs quarter to take a 32-24 lead into the second.
Toronto kept the pressure to take a 15-point lead early in the second. DeRozan drained a pair of free throws to send the Raptors into the halftime break up 62-45.
The Raptors host Chicago on Tuesday then travel to Miami and Dallas for a pair of road games.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press