Pacers Come Up Short Against Raptors, Lose 107-102

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - It was the mentor that got the best of the mentee in this game. Nick Nurse's Toronto Raptors came out on top 107-102 against Nate Bjorkgren and the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers expected to be without Caris LeVert (kidney growth) and TJ Warren (plantar fasciitis) for this matchup as they each are dealing with multi-week issues. As for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry (toe) remained sidelined and Pascal Siakam (knee) was ruled out prior to tip-off. 

The mantra of the Raptors has been 'next man up' especially since the departure of Kawhi Leonard after winning the 2019 NBA Finals. That has continued for Toronto even when dealing with injuries to key players. 

Neither the Pacers nor Raptors managed to create separation from one another in the first quarter. The score was tied 24 apiece entering the second period but that didn't last long. The Raptors took control hitting three-pointers and forcing turnovers -- gaining a 58-47 edge through the end of the opening half. 

Turnovers and opponent made three-pointers sorely hurt the Pacers in the first half of this matchup. Toronto managed to go 10-of-18 (55.6%) from deep compared to 4-of-15 (26.7%) from Indiana. Meanwhile, the Pacers had 13 turnovers and allowed 20 points off these mistakes.  

"They did a good job of being disruptive and loading up on the ball and loading up in the paint," Bjorkgren said. "Got to give them credit there."

There was no answer for O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet from the Pacers in the opening half. Anunoby contributed 17 points and five steals while VanVleet recorded 11 points and three assists. 

After halftime, the Raptors continued to maintain their double-digit lead up until a Pacers timeout at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter. Indiana answered back in a major way to close the frame using a 13-2 run. Toronto was up just 77-75 entering the final 12 minutes of action.

"We were playing with a little more juice and I said that to them there as a group at the end of that quarter," Bjorkgren said. "I thought they finished that third quarter. We were really moving and had them backing on their heels a little bit.

"We were in attack and setting good screens. Our movement was much better on the offensive end. There were a lot of highs and lows in that game. It felt like we were trying to claw back a lot of the time but our guys do that. We took a couple leads there in the second half and our guys kept fighting." 

Both teams remained tightly contested early in the final period. The Pacers even took an 80-79 lead at the 10:51 mark using a Myles Turner finish at the rim. Toronto gained some separation when VanVleet converted on a pair of momentum-swinging shots from deep -- gaining a 90-82 advantage with 7:24 left to play. The rest of the game was full of momentum swings. 

The Pacers received some late-game heroics from Myles Turner, T.J. McConnell, and Brogdon to rally back and tie the game at 102 apiece with 1:09 left to play in regulation. Indiana's execution suffered significantly for the rest of the way. 

Indiana fell back behind Toronto after Brogdon committed a loose-ball foul in the paint after a missed shot. Anunoby was sent to the free throw line as a result. He split the two attempts and put the Raptors ahead 103-102. 

The final two defensive possessions from the Raptors ultimately sealed their victory. Brogdon attempted to make something happen against VanVleet with the shot-clock winding down but got the ball ripped loose. Then a drive from Brogdon led to a finish attempt for Sabonis at the rim but he got blocked. 

There was a clear effort from the Raptors to neutralize Domantas Sabonis in this game by repeatedly double-teaming him and packing the paint with multiple defenders. He finished with 10 points, 19 rebounds, and five assists but went 1-of-10 (10.0%) from the field and 0-of-3 (0%) from deep.

"[Raptors] did a great job of throwing different coverages on me," Sabonis said of the Raptors' defensive strategies against him. "First half, got to the free throw line. Second half, couldn't. Couldn't execute all the way, just have to be a lot better helping my teammates."

The Pacers relied on Brogdon as the lead playmaker with the Raptors trying to take Sabonis out of the equation. The execution simply wasn't there as Brogdon scored 12 points and went 5-of-22 (22.7%) from the field with four turnovers. 

"Give credit to Toronto," Bjorkgren said. "They played good defense. They were really swarming [Brogdon & Sabonis] and also, at the same time, there were some shots we'd like to get back. We had some good looks. It's a combination of a lot of things. 

"I don't fault Malcolm or Domas at all with the extreme effort they always show. It was just one of those things. It didn't bounce in when we needed it to."

Turner put together another season-high in the scoring department with 25 points while contributing three steals and six blocks on defense. The Raptors outpaced this by receiving 30 points from Anunoby, 21 points from VanVleet, and 20 points from Powell. 

The Pacers will face off against the Raptors once again on Monday in part of a back-to-back. 

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