Raps fall off the pace

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- One quick trip south and the Raptors are again on the south side of .500.

Toronto led for most of the first half in last night's game at Conseco Fieldhouse, but hit the wall in the third quarter, losing to the host Indiana Pacers 102-84.

The loss dropped Toronto to 22-23 and snapped a three game win streak, their longest of the season. The Pacers are 23-20.

It was no great surprise that the Raptors faded in the stretch, as they played a tough game on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in defeating the Boston Celtics 96-90. They were scheduled to fly to Indianapolis immediately after the game, but didn't arrive at their hotel until close to four in the morning because of a two-hour plus flight delay.

"Our guys ran out of gas a little bit," head coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's just a tough night, getting in a 3:30 in the morning on a back-to-back, the team sitting here a couple of days waiting on you ... but we played hard. We just didn't have enough left in the tank.

"No excuses," he added. "That's just the NBA. We hung in there for a while, but the game got away from us."

The Pacers, on the other hand, are playing heady basketball since they completed a four-for-four deal with the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 17, giving up head case Stephen Jackson, along with Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell for Ike Diogu, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Keith McLeod.

Indiana took control in the third, out-scoring Toronto 30-21, with Danny Granger going 4-for-4 from three-point range. The Pacers ended up with 11 threes, the first time in 18 games they hit double-digits from beyond the arc.

"We wanted them to shoot a long jump shot and we forced them to do that, but they made it," Mitchell said. "We feel like over the course of the season, if we can make teams shoot long jump shots, we'll win more games than lose. It's just one of those nights that they made them."

The Raptors did get terrific outings from power forward Chris Bosh and point guard Jose Calderon, who is filling in for injured starter T.J. Ford.

Bosh, who admitted feeling "tired and winded" through much of the second half, scored 26 points and added 12 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season, while Calderon had 14 points and 10 assists, for his fourth double-double. He also had six turnovers. Jorge Garbajosa had seven points and seven boards.

"We have to look forward and prepare for the next game (Wednesday at home against Washington)," said Calderon, who waved aside suggestions by Mitchell that he is getting a little worn down filling in for Ford. "I'm good. I'm ready to play all the minutes that we need. When I'm home, I rest all that I can, and I'm ready to play and for practice."

The Pacers rode a strong game by all-star forward Jermaine O'Neal, who had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Jeff Foster had an interesting, but effective, outing for the Pacers, scoring zero points while picking up 12 rebounds.

The win against the Celtics on Friday lifted Toronto to the .500 mark, the first time they had achieved that status after the new year since 2004.

With Toronto trailing 69-61 at the start of the fourth quarter, Mitchell put in Fred Jones to see if the former Pacer would played inspired ball back at the Conseco Fieldhouse. On his first possession, Jones turned the ball over, leading to an Indian basket and a 10-point Toronto deficit. It only got worse as Darrell Armstrong and Mike Dunleavy hit back-to-back threes to put Indiana up 81-66.

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REPORT CARD

C Offence: Shot only 20-for-28 from the charity stripe, which certainly didn't do them any favours. The Toronto bench did not have a great outing, picking up 17 points in total.

C Defence: Allowed the Pacers to shoot 49% from the field and 11-for-22 from three-point range. They were also out-rebounded 45-36.


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