TORONTO – With two key starters injured, guard Terrence Ross led the way with a team-high 24 points as Toronto defeated the Indiana Pacers 102-94 Friday at Air Canada Centre.
“One player goes down, we have other players that come in and give us that spark,” said Ross, who finished 8 of 17 from the field and 5 of 8 from three-point range. “We’re just a scrappy, grind-it-out team. That’s how we’ve been winning games.”
Center Jonas Valanciuanas added 22 points and nine rebounds as the Raptors won without key starters Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson.
“They came in and played with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought Jonas came in and played with all the confidence in the world against one of the best centers in the league in Roy Hibbert.
“Also, T-Ross against one of the better defenders in the league, Paul George. Offensively they did a good job, but everybody who came in contributed.”
Toronto used a late 10-0 run to pull away to its fifth victory in six games.
“I thought we lost it when they kept getting second opportunities on plays,” said George, who finished with a game-high 26 points. “They got big rebounds. Some rebounds we were just out of position and some rebounds they just battled us.”
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan had 20 points going 4 for 5 from the line and guard Nando De Colo added 10 off the bench. Guard Greivis Vasquez, who started in place of Lowry, also had 10 points and forward Patrick Patterson, who started for injured center Amir Johnson, had five points.
“Me and Greivis played with each other, played alongside each other in Sacramento and now here in Toronto. So we have a good feel for one another,” Patterson said of his chemistry starting alongside Vasquez. “People just step up, no matter who’s playing. We have guys on this team that can fill in the position, step up and rise to the occasion. Guys did that tonight. Nando came in and played basketball like he knows how to play.”
The Raptors and Pacers split their season series with two wins apiece, each team winning at home.
The loss stretched Indiana’s season-worst road losing streak to six games. Indiana has now lost nine of 11 away from home.
“Five of them were against playoff teams,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of the streak. “It’s tough to win on the road against playoff teams. Give credit to the Raptors, they played a heck of a basketball game.
“Particularly the three starters they did have in the game, I thought really, really stepped up and all three of those guys, DeMar, Terrence and Jonas just played out of their mind, played a great basketball game.”
Forward David West added 21 points for Indiana while Hibbert was held to 12 points.
With 1:45 remaining in the third quarter, things got heated between Raptors guard John Salmons and George. Both received technical fouls as a result.
“I just thought he was holding on to me and refs were letting it go so I gave him a bump, he gave me a bump back,” George said of the incident.
George led the Pacers on a 6-0 run to close the third quarter, tying the score at 75.
Toronto (44-32) opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 33-28 lead. An 8-2 surge by the Pacers allowed Indiana to retake the lead midway through the quarter.
Ross and Valanciunas helped the Raptors take a 54-46 lead at intermission.
The Raptors trailed the Pacers 28-27 after one quarter. Ross led Toronto with 10 points in the first quarter, going 4 of 4 from the field. DeRozan chipped in with seven points.
West went 4 of 6 from the field in the first quarter and led the Pacers (53-24) with eight points. George added seven in the opening quarter.
NOTES: Raptors G Kyle Lowry (bruised left kneecap) missed his second straight game. Lowry suffered the injury after colliding with Heat F LeBron James in Miami on Monday. … Toronto C Amir Johnson (sore right ankle) missed his first game after suffering the injury in the Raptors’ win over Houston on Wednesday. Johnson left the game after playing the first three minutes. … Canadian recording artist and Raptors ambassador Drake was courtside on Friday night. … Indiana entered Friday’s game percentage points (.006) behind Miami for top seed in the Eastern Conference. … Pacers G C.J. Watson (hamstring) missed his 12th straight game.
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