INDIANAPOLIS - Steam was coming out of Dwane Casey’s ears following Toronto’s loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday night. His team competed harder on Monday, which made him a happier man, but still made enough mistakes to come up short.
A day after allowing a disastrous 24-0 run, the Raptors refused to defend properly against Indiana at times and allowed the Pacers to live at the line. The result, loss
No. 38, this time, a 103-98 setback to the 35-22 Pacers.
Toronto actually fought back to bring a 14-point Pacers halftime lead down to a bucket in the fourth, but ex-Raptor Leandro Barbosa keyed an Indiana revival from there that made Toronto’s final push inconsequential.
“I appreciate the guys’ effort. They came out and fought and didn’t give in,” Casey said.
“The fight was there … it wasn’t pretty and again, all we can do is ask for that type of effort.”
As expected, the Raptors were without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani for the 27th time in 58 games. If his latest calf issue keeps him out six more times, it will be half a campaign missed by Bargnani, who had been averaging about 25 per game in his previous six games before going down against the Thunder with calf soreness.
The offence struggled early without him — Toronto shot 36.8% from the field in the first quarter and 40.5% at the half — but came around later.
Alan Anderson sparked the visitors with an excellent performance. Anderson scored 17 points, hitting all four of his three-point attempts. Linas Kleiza added 18 — all in the fourth — and Amir Johnson had 17.
“Everybody contributed this game, we all pitched in, we just came up short at the end,” Johnson said.
The Raptors started the final two quarters on fire, allowing them to get back into the game, but could not carry the momentum through either frame with Barbosa shooting well.
“That’s what he does. He comes in and makes some difficult shots,” Johnson said.
Barbosa, the most popular man in the locker room as a Raptor, said he felt odd facing his buddies.
“It was kind of weird for me to play against them. The only time that happened for me when I was there was in practice so it was weird, but I’m with the Pacers now, so I’ve got to protect the team,” Barbosa said.
Though the Raptors started the third quarter 5-for-5 and shot 61.1%, Indiana actually increased its 14-point halftime lead by a point by shooting 60% from the field and 6-of-9 from the line.
For the game, the Pacers shot 50.7% from the field and hit 24 free throws to Toronto’s 16.
Casey has never wavered this season, win or lose, the season has been all about the process. Even though his team had played well for a half against the impressive Thunder and came in with three straight wins, after surrendering a 24-0 run, he was irate after the game. He knew beating Oklahoma City was unlikely, but it was how the team fell that grated at the coach.
Not focusing on minor victories like the winning streak or a good half will pay dividends for the club down the line, just like benching James Johnson for two games sends a message that Casey is firmly in charge.
FROM THE STATS DEPT.
The Pacers swept the season-series against the Raptors for the first time since 2003-04 and have not lost at home to Toronto since February of 2008 … Toronto dropped to 4-14 in the second part of back-to-backs this season … Barbosa is the only player in Raptors history to average at least 10 points per game without starting any of them (Barbosa played 100 games for the team) … April had not been kind to Kleiza. The Lithuanian was shooting 36.8% from the field in five games coming in but turned things around ... While it has been a long time coming, the loss officially eliminated the Raptors from post-season contention.