The Indiana Pacers haven't lost at home in two months, which makes it seem even stranger that one of their few home defeats this season came against the Toronto Raptors.
Seeking to atone for their worst offensive performance of the season in Indianapolis, the Pacers aim for their 16th straight home win Friday night versus Toronto.
Indiana (31-19) has won a season-high five straight overall, including three games in as many nights earlier this week. Monday's makeup game against Chicago set up the only back-to-back-to-back scenario in the NBA this season, and the Pacers won all three games by double digits.
They summoned enough energy to smother Philadelphia on Wednesday, holding the 76ers to 34.4 percent shooting in an 88-69 road victory.
"Our tanks were on E, but our team is a very, very mentally tough team. And we proved it tonight," coach Frank Vogel said. "It never felt like it was easy during the game. ... I'm proud of our guys for getting the win."
Vogel also must feel great about his team's play in the Hoosier State since its last home loss Dec. 7 against Denver. The Pacers have won 15 straight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse - their longest home streak since a 25-game run in 1999-2000 - by an average margin of 11.0 points, yielding just 86.2 points per game.
They're 20-3 at home this season, with the first loss a 74-72 defeat to Toronto on Nov. 13. Indiana's point total in that game was its lowest of the season, and its 32.0 percent shooting was its worst mark at home.
The Raptors (17-32) had lost their previous seven trips to Indiana, and they've since dropped 16 of 20 on the road. They also recently traded away Jose Calderon, who had a triple-double in the victory over the Pacers.
Newcomer Rudy Gay has averaged 24.7 points in three games with Toronto, but the Raptors have gone 1-2 while dealing with a tough stretch in their schedule. They routed the Los Angeles Clippers to open a three-game homestand last Friday, but followed with losses to Miami and Boston.
Andrea Bargnani returned from a 26-game absence due to an elbow injury in Wednesday's 99-95 defeat against the Celtics, scoring 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench. The Raptors led by 10 entering the fourth quarter, but quickly squandered the lead and fell to 4-18 when Bargnani is active this season.
"He gave us some good minutes," coach Dwane Casey said of Bargnani. "I thought he wore down a little bit and I didn't want to wear him down too much."
Bargnani has had a tough time against Indiana recently, shooting 27.4 percent - 4 of 21 from 3-point range - in his last five appearances in this series. Gay, too, has struggled to score against the Pacers this season, averaging just 12.5 points on 25.6 percent shooting in two matchups while with Memphis.
That's hardly surprising considering Indiana leads the NBA in holding opponents to 41.9 percent shooting.
The Pacers have been more potent than usual on offense lately, averaging 106.0 points in their last five home games. Paul George and David West continue to lead the way, combining to average 42.8 points on 51.3 percent shooting in that stretch.
The Raptors held George and West to a combined 23 points on 6-of-26 shooting in their November victory in Indiana.
The Associated Press News Service
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