Toronto 95 Indiana 82
TORONTO — If the league-leading Indiana Pacers provided the perfect gauge for just how much the Toronto Raptors have improved, the answer was: plenty.
DeMar DeRozan poured in 26 points to lead the red-hot Raptors to a resounding 95-82 win over Indiana on Wednesday.
The Raptors’ victory was their fourth in a row and eighth in their last 10 outings. It also snapped Indiana’s five-game winning streak.
Terrence Ross added 18 for Toronto (15-15), while Kyle Lowry had a game-high 14 assists to go with 13 points, and Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Roy Hibbert scored 16 for the Pacers (25-6) before fouling out with 3:25 to go, while Paul George added 12 and Danny Granger finished with 11.
The Raptors’ confidence was soaring going into Wednesday’s game, and a night earlier, the Raptors were down by five heading into the fourth at Chicago before rallying for an 85-79 victory over the Bulls.
They’d shown more fight in the past couple of weeks than in recent memory, and were making a habit of fourth-quarter comebacks. But they didn’t need one Wednesday.
The Raptors led by as much as nine points against a Pacers team that came into the game with a 9-0 record against Atlantic Division opponents, and fought back from a Pacers rally to lead 66-63 going into the fourth quarter.
They found another gear down the stretch. Back-to-back buckets by DeRozan then a steal by Ross that turned into a Lowry basket with 2:54 to play had the crowd on its feet screaming and put Toronto up by 11. The thrilled Air Canada Centre crowd of 18,271 stood and cheered the Raptors off the floor after the final buzzer.
The Pacers, said Raptors coach Dwane Casey, provided his players the chance to test themselves against the best in the league, to see just how much they’ve improved, and how far they still have to go.
“It’s never a good time to play Indiana, Miami. . . you don’t want to wish for those games. But we’re playing with confidence now,” Casey said before the game. “This is a good measuring stick for us. You can measure yourself against the best teams in the league. Their style of play is the way you have to play to win in this league, so this will tell us how far we have to go or what we have to do to get there.”
The Raptors opened with one of the best all-around quarters of the season, with 10 assists on 11 made field goals.
They fell behind by six early but outscored the Pacers 24-8 to the end of the quarter to lead 26-18 heading into the second.
A three-pointer by Raptors newcomer Greivis Vasquez gave Toronto a nine-point lead early in the second, but the Pacers parlayed 10 Raptors turnovers into nine points, and Indiana took a 44-40 lead into the dressing room at the break.
The Pacers were the ones turning the ball over in the third, with the Raptors scoring 14 points on seven Indiana giveaways. Tyler Hansbrough tied the game with a dunk with 1:08 left in the quarter, then John Salmons drained a three to send the Raptors into the fourth up by three points.
NOTES: The Raptors are in Washington on Friday to open a three-game road trip against three tough Eastern Conference teams. They’ll play at Miami on Sunday, then Indiana on Tuesday before returning home to host Detroit on Jan. 8. . . The Pacers beat Toronto 91-84 in Indiana on Nov. 8.