Toronto’s reserves scored 55 points, led by Carlos Delfino’s 23, in a 102-98 win Monday night. T.J Ford had 16 points and seven assists in 26 minutes, the most he’s played since missing 24 games with an arm stinger.
“It’s hard for anybody in the NBA to match bench for bench,” O’Brien said. “That’s a formidable group, and it speaks to their depth that those players come off the bench.”
Delfino, who was 6-for-7 on 3-pointers, and Ford gave Chris Bosh all the help he needed. Bosh had 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The Raptors seemed happiest with Ford’s performance. He played two more minutes than starter Jose Calderon and played the entire fourth quarter.
“With our guys getting healthy, I think we now have a second-team punch with T.J. getting into shape and into rhythm,” Delfino said. “It opens things up for us offensively, and it sure can change our game.”
Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said there’s no controversy at his point-guard position.
“Jose played a lot of minutes,” Mitchell said. “When T.J. comes into the game, he gives you a different look, and when Jose comes into the game, he gives you a different look.”
Bosh said there’s no need for controversy.
“Him (Ford) and Jose can split time, whoever’s playing the best, or they can play together,” he said.
Indiana forward Danny Granger said Ford looked like his old self.
“He’s got something you can’t really teach, and that’s speed,” he said. “He’s the fastest guy on the court, and when he lines you up one on one, he’s hard to guard.”
Granger and Marquis Daniels each had 20 points, and Granger added 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
The Raptors have won all three meetings with the Pacers this season and won four of their last five overall.
Toronto led by eight at halftime, but Indiana trimmed its deficit to 58-55 on a layup by Mike Dunleavy. After the Pacers tied it at 69 on a driving layup and a short jumper by Daniels with two minutes left in the third quarter, Indiana took a 75-74 lead.
Delfino made two free throws to tie it at 77 at the end of the period.
Indiana led 86-84 before Toronto went on a 13-2 run that included two 3-pointers by Delfino to take a 97-88 lead with just over four minutes to play.
A dunk and a turnaround jumper by Daniels cut Toronto’s lead to 101-98 with 40 seconds to play. Ford missed a finger roll on the other end and Granger rebounded, giving the Pacers a chance to force overtime.
The Pacers said Delfino was the difference.
“He didn’t miss,” Granger said. “We let him get open a few too many times. Anybody in the NBA can make those shots when you’re that far open. He put the dagger in us.”
Bosh said the performance by Delfino wasn’t surprising. Delfino ranks in the top 20 in the league in 3-point percentage.
“When he gets hot, he’s going to let it go,” Bosh said. “He’s done a great job all year. He also does a great job on the defensive end. He also got to the free-throw line again tonight. He just helped us out a lot.”
The Pacers were left to try to figure out how they let another big lead get away. Indiana led by 13 in the first quarter, and led briefly late in the third quarter.
“We try to make adjustments,” Granger said. “That is one of the drawbacks of the style that we play. We make runs and we give up runs. If we could cut off some of those runs, we’d probably be in a different situation right now.”
Pacers F Jermaine O’Neal missed his 16th straight game with a bone bruise on his left knee. He didn’t attend the game because he has the flu. … Pacers G Jamaal Tinsley has missed 11 of the past 14 games with a sore left knee. … Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy attended the game. … Former Pacers Primoz Brezec and Maceo Baston are on Toronto’s roster. Brezec, Indiana’s first-round pick in 2000, didn’t play. Baston was inactive. … The Pacers shot 50 percent from the field in the first quarter and led 30-19.