TORONTO (AP)—Yet another loss for the Toronto Raptors. And this one eliminated them from the playoffs.
The Raptors, who have lost eight of their past nine games, were officially eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday night in a 94-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” said Vince Carter, who had a quiet night, scoring only 15 points. “That should be obvious, that’s a question you shouldn’t have to ask. … We need to get a playoff team in here. We’ve gone through a lot of injuries, controversies. You can’t really control that.”
Jermaine O’Neal scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and the Pacers tied a franchise record for most victories in a season (58, set in 1997-98).
“That’s an important mark for us,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We felt if we could be a good road team, it would be a good sign for us heading into the playoffs.”
“Hopefully, we can just be pros and keep playing,” said Marshall of the four remaining games. “It’s all about staying together through unity, and show people we are strong.”
The Raptors, who never led, clawed back from an 18-point deficit after Carlisle began to use more bench players midway through the second half. Rose cut Indiana’s lead to 87-81 when he hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining, and then Carter scored on a layup with 1:01 to go.
Miller, who played stellar defense on Carter, hit two free throws to open a six-point lead with 24.6 seconds left. But Marshall came right back and sank a desperation 3 with 16 seconds on the clock.
Artest was fouled and hit both free throws. Chris Bosh scored on a tip-in to make it 91-88, and Artest was sent to the line again. He made one of two foul shots for a four-point edge that put the game out of reach.
“They definitely turned it up,” Artest said. “Reggie picked up his defense and I don’t think a lot of people really respect that. Reggie just wants to win games.”
Marshall keyed Torontos comeback when he hit a 3-pointer with 9:38 left in the game to narrow Indiana’s lead to 77-72. Carter scored his first points of significance when he made a running layup a minute later to make it 77-74.
The game marked yet another low point for the Raptors this season, which saw the firing of long-time general manager Glen Grunwald last week and daily reports suggesting coach Kevin O’Neill will not make it to next season. It also marks the second straight season Toronto failed to reach the playoffs.
“Injuries hurt us and we got distracted and derailed a bit, but we got four games to play and we have to be professional,” O’Neill said. “We have to play for pride. That’s a big problem in the NBA, that too many just take it for granted to be in the biggest league in the world.”
The Raptors have lost five straight at home.
The Pacers, on the other hand, have the NBA’s best record (58-21) and await their first-round playoff matchup.
^Notes: The Pacers swept the season series against the Raptors 4-0. … Pacers F Austin Croshere, who has been battling a stomach flu this week, played 12 minutes. … The Pacers have three games remaining, beginning Friday against New Jersey. … Pacers coach Rick Carlisle stood up for former assistant O’Neill, saying before the game “this franchise has proven over the last three weeks that they’re undeserving of someone of Kevin O’Neill’s integrity and convictions.” … Actor Samuel L. Jackson was sitting courtside, while Vin Diesel was watching from a box. But when he appeared on the Jumbotron, Diesel turned around and walked out of the box. >