The Raptors and Pacers both look to build off their critical wins as they meet at Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Toronto (22-22) defeated Boston 96-90 on Friday to reach .500 this late in the season for the first time since Feb. 10, 2004.
“We worked very hard to get to this point and it’s going to be even harder,” said Chris Bosh, who had 26 points and eight rebounds.
Bosh was named a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team on Thursday, one day after scoring a season-high 35 points in a win over New Orleans.
The Raptors are .500 for the first time since they were 2-2 on Nov. 8, and now lead the Atlantic Division by 1 1/2 games over the New Jersey Nets. Toronto was six games below .500 on Jan. 3, but has won three straight, and nine of 12. The Raptors have not won four straight games since winning five in a row Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 6, 2006.
“It’s good be at .500, but our goal is greater than that,” Morris Peterson said.
The Raptors have also improved their play away from the Air Canada Centre as they’ve won three straight road games after winning just five of their first 20 road games. They have not won four straight road games since March 22-April 5, 2002.
While Toronto collected an important victory on Friday, the Pacers (22-20) also feel their latest win has them moving in the right direction.
Indiana is in sixth place in the East, but has been unable to get in a groove all season. They have won consecutive games on eight different occasions, and won a season-high three straight games Jan. 6-10, but followed that by losing a season-worst four straight.
On Wednesday, the Pacers trailed the Heat by 20 points with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter before going on a 30-9 run to take the lead 75-74 with 6:46 remaining in regulation. They eventually won 96-94 in overtime to complete their largest comeback victory all season.
“That’s a really big emotional victory for us,” Danny Granger said. “That’s one you can build on for the rest of the season.”
Granger was 0-for-5 from the field heading into the fourth quarter before scoring 14 of his 16 points in the final period and overtime.
“A good team finds ways to win,” Jermaine O’Neal said. “I think it was a very positive step forward for our team.”
On Nov. 26, the Pacers trailed the Raptors by as many as 27 points before cutting the lead to four, but could get no closer and lost 92-83.
Indiana has lost three of its last five games against Toronto, and lost two of its last three to the Raptors at Conseco Fieldhouse.
O’Neal had 10 points and 13 rebounds against the Heat for his fifth straight double-double. He had 15 points and 11 boards against the Raptors in November, and is averaging 18.3 points and 9.0 boards in his last four games against them.
Troy Murphy finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in his third game with the Pacers on Wednesday after being traded from Golden State last week. After averaging 8.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 26 games for the Warriors, Murphy is averaging 11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds with Indiana.
Murphy totaled 41 points and 15 rebounds in his last two games against the Raptors as a member of the Warriors.