Raptors blow big lead

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh (right) guards Indiana Pacers centre Roy Hibbert during the...

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh (right) guards Indiana Pacers centre Roy Hibbert during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game in Indianapolis January 11. (REUTERS/Brent Smith)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The screamed four-letter expletive that emanated from the showers in the Raptors' locker room aptly summed up what might have been the most frustrating loss of the season.

The Raptors, in a 105-101 loss at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, suffered the second biggest blown lead in team history, squandering a 23-point advantage at the Conseco Fieldhouse.

“It was a very stupid loss,” Andrea Bargnani said. “We let them come back, it was all on us. We went 20 points up and we lost our concentration.”

The Raps, who had won three of their previous four road games and eight of 10 overall, came awfully close to setting the team record for the largest blown lead. Toronto twice has lost after leading by 24 points, and both times it was to the Mavericks in Dallas, once in 2006 and again in 2007.

The Raptors led by 23 early in the second quarter and were in control at the half, ahead by 13 and rather jubilant thanks to a 65-foot prayer that Antoine Wright hit as the buzzer sounded. But the sit-back-and-have-fun attitude that permeated from the bench in the second quarter, when most of the starters happily cheered on their replacements, soon dissipated in the final 24 minutes.

Instead of improving to 20-19, with their next game not until Friday in New York, the Raptors slipped to a game under .500. Their horrible shooting in the second half did them in. Toronto was just seven-of-34 from the field, clearly unable to stay focused after gorging itself on a flimsy Pacers defence. A group of players that were more sure of themselves probably wouldn’t have had much trouble keeping a stranglehold on the Pacers, who were 8-9 at home. Clanking 12 of 43 free throws off the rim overall didn’t help the Raptors either.

“We got comfortable with the lead, comfortable with the way we were playing,” Jarrett Jack said. “They kept scratching and clawing. Our defence could have picked up.”

A sparse crowd of 11,039, including Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind, an Indiana native, watched in delight as the Pacers chipped away. The Toronto lead was down to six points at the start of the fourth quarter, and by the time seven minutes 42 seconds were left, it was gone. That’s when the Pacers’ Mike Dunleavy connected a 12-foot jumper to tie the game 89-89.

The Raps went up by three, but back-to-back three-pointers by Dunleavy and Earl Watson put the Pacers in command.

Bargnani’s night on the boards was the lone positive for the Raptors. He had a career-high 17 rebounds.

“Maybe we didn’t have the legs,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano, who could have called out his team for being too loose with such a big lead.

“We were fatigued. We turned the ball over too much in the second half, but I thought we fought hard on a back to back.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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