After losing to three of the NBA’s best teams, the Indiana Pacers try to take advantage of the league’s worst.
The Pacers return home from a winless three-game road trip to face the Toronto Raptors.
Indiana had won three straight and five of six before beginning its trip last Friday with a 94-89 loss in Cleveland, current owner of the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers then were swept by the top teams in the West during a trek through Texas, falling 102-80 at Dallas on Monday and 99-86 at San Antonio the following night.
The latest defeat saw Indiana make 12 of its first 19 shots and take a 48-46 lead at halftime, but the team missed 21 of its first 31 attempts in the second half.
“We have to establish some consistency,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We have to have more intensity on defense because that leads to opportunities on offense.”
Indiana, allowing 89.8 points per game this season to rank among the league leaders, has given up an average of 98.3 points during the three-game skid.
“Right now we’re just an average team,” O’Neal said. “Elite teams find a way to make plays.”
The Pacers have won eight of the past 10 games against the Raptors, but Toronto won 98-97 on Feb. 5 in its most recent visit to Conseco Fieldhouse. Each of their last four meetings were decided by less than five points.
Despite owning the NBA’s worst record at 7-22, the Raptors have won three of five and are coming off a 108-102 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday.
The Raptors scored a season-high 35 points in the first quarter to lead by nine. They outlasted the Hawks in the fourth quarter after closing the third tied at 79-79.
“We just needed a win, period,” said James of his team’s second home win this season.
Peterson passed Raptors teammate Alvin Williams for the top spot on the franchise’s all-time games played list with 418, and also has the longest streak of consecutive games played among active NBA players at 307.