Large deficits haven’t stopped the Indiana Pacers lately. A sizable road trip is their next challenge.
Coming off yet another comeback win, the Pacers begin a stretch of six straight road games when they face the struggling Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
Indiana has won three of its last four contests to move back over .500, coming from behind in each of its wins in that stretch. After falling behind by 16 points in the first half, the Pacers (7-6) took control in the third quarter and beat Cleveland 97-87 on Friday night.
“I don’t understand why we can’t get off to good starts,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who scored 29 points. “I don’t think we’ve gotten off to a good start in any game this year.”
Indiana rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Milwaukee on Nov. 18, and scored the final 14 points to earn another win over the Bucks on Tuesday. The Pacers have trailed after the first quarter 10 times, and have been behind at halftime in nine games.
Now, Indiana will begin its longest road trip of the season as it faces a Raptors (3-9) team that has lost seven of eight.
“If I’m Toronto, I’ve got to be excited,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “If you can’t sell tickets knowing you’re going to get a 10-to-15-point lead in the first quarter … To tell you the truth, I’ve never seen anything like it for a team to come out and be as lethargic as often as we do, then get our backs against the wall and start fighting.”
Indiana is 3-4 on the road, but has lost four of its last five away from home.
“It’s always a bonus when you get a win going into a long road trip,” said O’Neal, who is averaging a team-high 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. “You look at a six-game road trip—it’s one of those situations where it can define your team.”
After snapping a six-game skid with a 95-87 win over the Cavaliers Wednesday, the Raptors returned to their losing ways with a 97-93 defeat at Atlanta on Friday.
The average margin of defeat in Toronto’s last four losses, however, has been just 6.0 points.
Some of the team’s trouble is that opponents are double-teaming leading scorer Chris Bosh. He went just 2-of-9 from the field and finished with 11 points against the Hawks.
“I have to work on getting a deeper post position and making quicker moves,” said the fourth-year forward, who is averaging 21.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game.
T.J. Ford is coming off a 25-point performance for Toronto, and is averaging career highs of 16.2 points and 8.3 assists per game.
Toronto’s Morris Peterson, whose 371-game streak ended Wednesday, has missed two straight contests with a partial tear in his left elbow. His status for Sunday’s contest is uncertain.
Indiana and Toronto split their four-game series last season, with the Pacers winning the last two matchups.