The Raptors may have jettisoned Vince Carter last night, but this is a club that is still sinking. Coming off a huge win over Western Conference powerhouse Minnesota on Wednesday, the Raptors regressed once again last night, dropping an 89-86 road decision to the Indiana Pacers, a team missing three of its top players to lengthy suspensions.
Toronto, now 8-17, led throughout the first half, by as many as 13 points, but imploded once again, mainly as a result of poor rebounding and poor execution late in the game. The Pacers pulled in 48 boards to Toronto's 34.
"It's sickening. It's discouraging," head coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's the same thing. We get beat on the boards. They get 21 second- chance points, which is all offensive rebounds. What do you say?"
Indiana's rookie centre David Harrison had a career game, scoring 22 points with seven rebounds. Point guard Jamaal Tinsley also had 22 and six assists while Jeff Foster had 10 points and 18 boards.
Jalen Rose led the Toronto charge with 23 points, while rookie Matt Bonner had 10 off the bench.
Yet again, the game went down to the wire and the Raps came out on the short end. With 1:44 left, guard Milt Palacio scored two on a layup, to make it 87-84 Indiana, and then missed a free throw after being fouled by Tinsley.
Two possessions later, Rose was fouled by Harrison and sank two, making the score 87-86 for the home side with 34 seconds remaining.
It appeared as though an Indiana player knocked the ball out of bounds on the next play, but the Pacers were given possession. Tinsley --screaming: "Reggie Miller! Reggie Miller!" -- then inbounded to his teammate and the Pacers veteran nailed a 20-foot jump shot with one second left on the possession clock, putting Indiana ahead 89-86. The Raptors took possession with 8.6 seconds left. Palacio inbounded to Rose, who was closely guarded by Fred Jones. Rose threw up a 25-foot air ball.
Mitchell was not impressed.
"Rafer was wide open," Mitchell said. "We were hoping for Rafer, Donyell Marshall or Jalen to get a wide open look and Rafer was open. Rafer was open and we didn't (pass) the ball. Why? I don't know."
"I was trying to get a three up there," Rose said. "They had the three line pretty well covered and it meant nothing to drive in for a two. I was trying to get a good look at it, but Jones played good defence."
The Pacers were without starters, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal as a result of that ugly brawl in Auburn Hills, Mich, against the Pistons on Nov. 19.