Six weeks into the season, each club finds itself in last place in its division.
The Raptors and Pacers look to snap their respective losing streaks as Toronto center Jermaine O’Neal and Indiana guard T.J. Ford face their former teams for the first time Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto sent Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston and 17th overall draft pick Roy Hibbert to Indiana in the offseason in exchange for O’Neal - a six-time All-Star - and second-round pick Nathan Jawai.
The Pacers (7-13) figured Ford would be a great fit under offensive-minded coach Jim O’Brien, and the six-foot point guard has delivered, averaging a career-high 14.3 points with 5.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
Indiana, however, has won just three of its last 13 games, leaving it at the bottom of the Central Division.
The Raptors (8-12) thought pairing O’Neal with fellow All-Star Chris Bosh in the frontcourt could help them take the next step after consecutive first-round playoff losses, but the club has dropped a season-high five straight games to fall into last place in the Atlantic Division.
O’Neal, who’s been plagued by injuries over the last four seasons, is averaging 12.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 17 games, both well below the standards he set during his eight-season tenure with the Pacers.
O’Neal had eight points and four rebounds in 32 minutes of Tuesday night’s 114-94 loss to Cleveland, which dropped interim coach Jay Triano to 0-3 since replacing the fired Sam Mitchell last Wednesday.
Jose Calderon, who took over as Toronto’s starting point guard following Ford’s departure, pointed at the Raptors’ schedule as part of the reason for their recent struggles. Their five consecutive losses have come against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, Utah, Portland and Cleveland. Four of those defeats were on the road.
“Let’s be honest, the schedule is not helping us,” Calderon said after getting held to a season-low three assists Tuesday. “The teams we are playing against are pretty good teams. … We’ve got to keep working the way we are working. Tomorrow, we have a really important game at home and we’ve got to think of that right now.”
The Pacers’ schedule hasn’t done them any favors lately, either. After upsetting the Lakers at the buzzer last Tuesday, Indiana has lost three straight, one against streaking Cleveland and two against defending NBA champion Boston.
The Pacers delivered one of their best games of the season Sunday, shooting 50.6 percent from the field and making 27 of 32 free throws, but they fell short in a 122-117 overtime loss to the Celtics. Three of Indiana’s past eight losses have come in overtime.
“We’ve been in so many of these close games and we struggle to finish,” said forward Danny Granger, who had 20 points and six assists but went just 7-for-22 from the field. “It’s a learning experience for us. We haven’t been in this situation too much.”
Indiana lost three of its four games against Toronto last season. Bosh averaged 22.7 points and 10.0 rebounds in the Raptors’ three wins over the Pacers, but played only 10 minutes in their 122-111 home loss Feb. 29 because of a knee injury.