As poorly as the Indiana Pacers have been playing, they’re still in control of their playoff destiny.
The scuffling Pacers again hope to get their offense back on track and avoid losing a sixth straight Friday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors.
Since winning seven of its first eight games under coach Frank Vogel, Indiana (27-37) has lost nine of 12. The way the Pacers have been losing lately has been a bit concerning, as they’ve been outscored by an average of 17.0 points during their five-game skid.
Indiana seemed to hit a new low Wednesday, shooting a season-worst 29.6 percent in a 101-75 loss to woeful Minnesota.
Tyler Hansbrough(notes), who finished with a team-high 21 points, made two of his first four field-goal attempts, but his teammates missed their first 15. Danny Granger(notes) had 10 points on 2-for-19 shooting, his worst shooting performance when taking at least seven shots.
Granger has had a lot to do with Indiana’s struggles in the last five games, shooting 27.5 percent and averaging 13.6 points - 6.9 fewer than his team-leading average.
The Pacers are scoring 93.4 points per game during their slide after averaging 105.9 in their first 15 games under Vogel.
“Clearly we’re struggling on the offensive end,” Vogel said. “We’re struggling as a basketball team. We will work until we come out of it, and we will come out of it.”
Indiana, which beat the Raptors 104-93 on Jan. 31 in Vogel’s first game after taking over for the fired Jim O’Brien, theoretically should have better luck offensively against a Toronto team that has allowed an average of 110.3 points in losing seven of nine.
The Pacers, however, didn’t show much life on offense Wednesday against the Timberwolves, who rank last in the league in scoring defense at 106.9 points.
Despite Indiana’s awful play, it is still one game ahead of Charlotte for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
“It’s unbelievable, but yeah we’re still in the playoffs as of right now,” Hansbrough said. “That’s why we need to turn things around quickly. It’s been a goal of ours to get into the playoffs for a while. So we’ll see what happens.”
Hansbrough has been one of the few bright spots for the Pacers lately, averaging 21.3 points in his last three games - 11.7 better than his season average. He had 14 points against Toronto in January, while Roy Hibbert(notes) led Indiana with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pacers have won both meetings with the Raptors this season but have lost four straight in Toronto.
The Raptors (17-47) are coming off a 96-94 loss to Utah on Wednesday, their third straight defeat. Toronto, loser of 23 of 27, led by 14 points with 8:21 to play but scored just eight more on 2-of-14 shooting.
Toronto was without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani(notes) (flu-like symptoms), but Reggie Evans(notes) returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his right foot in a Nov. 26 loss at Boston. Evans, averaging a team-high 12.1 rebounds, grabbed 11 boards.
“He was a little rusty but I was pleased with his energy and his effort,” coach Jay Triano said.