INDIANAPOLIS - On a night when the Toronto Raptors had every excuse in the book available to them, they refused to reach for even one.
The baggage alone they carried into this game would have brought many lesser teams to their collective knees.
A disheartening triple-overtime loss at home Monday night, followed by a 3 a.m. arrival early this morning, not to mention injuries at two key positions and a team running on fumes were all there for the taking.
But somehow 1-6 is now 2-6 and Raptors are off the schneid thanks to a 74-72 win.
"This has to be huge," head coach Dwane Casey said when asked about the impact a win like this can have. "It's like I told them. This has to be the start. We are going to have some more rough (times) but this breaks that schneid. We deserved to win that game."
After a slow start that saw them stuck nine 31/2 minutes into the evening, the Raptors turned it around and took a lead with 4:14 to go in the first and never looked back.
Sure there were some very anxious moments, particularly in that fourth quarter when the Raptors couldn't buy a basket and scored a franchise low five points in the final frame, but the refusal to let this one get away will be what separates this game from all others they've played this year.
"The basketball gods were against us (Monday) night," Casey said. "Tonight with one field goal in the fourth quarter he came back and knocked on our door again. I really respect our guys. I told them before the game we have every excuse in the world built in but we had a game to play. I told them: 'Let's go to work. Let's put our hard hats on and they did and I'm proud of them and let's keep this going."
Leading the charge was point guard Jose Calderon, who followed up a 50-minute night on Monday with another monster effort of just over 39 minutes. He was rewarded with not just a win but his first triple-double scoring 13 points, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down 10 rebounds.
"It was guys helping each other," Calderon said. "Guys behind me were talking to me. When they were in the post they were getting help. It was contagious. Everyone was doing the right thing so then everyone had to keep doing the right thing. It was a good feeling. Everyone was just comfortable."
As for the individual accolades, Calderon, who is always hesitant to even comment on anything that isn't a team goal, admitted the triple-double was something he never saw coming.
"I'm happy it came in a win, in an important win like this but I never thought I would get 10 rebounds," he said laughing.
The final minute, though, was nail-biting time for everyone. The Pacers had not one but five missed shots in the final 23 seconds with the rebound finding its way to a Pacers players each and every time but the last.
When DeMar DeRozan did corral Paul George's miss he wasn't taking any chances firing it immediately towards the other basket as time expired.
Calderon threw both arms up in the air and for all his teammates uttered what they were all thinking.
"Finally," he yelled, "finally."
For Casey the win reiterated something he has been preaching since he got to Toronto and actually long before that. Defence matters above all.
"It goes back to what we talked about in training camp," Casey said. "I wasn't thinking about one field goal (in an entire quarter) but that we have to be a defensive team and defence carried us. Defence travels well. If your defence is not rolling, now you get beat by 20. Tonight our guys willed their way through that fourth quarter. They had no legs to score. Andrea had no legs. Jose had no legs to go around anybody and to his credit he stuck it out."
Outside of Calderon's efforts, the offensive numbers were modest at best.
DeRozan managed a team-high 15 but hit on only 5-of-13 attempts, which is so unlike him this season. Linas Kleiza, who gave the team such a big lift before falling in triple-overtime to Utah chipped in with 10, much of it playing on a bum ankle he tweaked in the second quarter.
As Casey pointed out a lot of his players were running on fumes and while that prevented them from scoring the basketball they normally do, they found reserves of energy to get the job done defensively.
"Guys covered their positions," Casey said. "They did a good job of covering gaps. We had a few screw ups in the pick-and-roll coverage but other than that they did a great job of taking care of their position and being where they needed to be."
Nights like this one have been few and far between for this team so far this season, but getting one last night couldn't have come at a better time.