Pacers-Raptors Preview

The Associated Press

The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors turned in defensive clinics in the fourth quarters to rally for victories in their most recent games.

One night later, the Pacers will put their five-game win streak on the line Wednesday when they visit a Raptors team that has won a season-high three in a row.

Indiana (25-5) harassed Cleveland into 18.8 percent (3 of 16) shooting in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's 91-76 home win. The Pacers trailed by one entering the final 12 minutes.

"We played better defense, played smart and hit the open man," guard Lance Stephenson said. "We were protecting the rim."

Toronto (14-15) limited Chicago to 16.7 percent (4 of 24) from the field in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's 85-79 road victory. The Raptors entered the period down five.

"It was a grind-it-out game," coach Dwane Casey said. "These kind of games are the kind of games you have to play if you're going to be serious about being a playoff team."

The Pacers are allowing a league-low 89.0 points per game. They lowered the NBA's best defensive field goal percentage to 41.1 on a night leading scorer Paul George had 21 points despite missing nine of 11 3-point shots against the Cavaliers. Roy Hibbert scored 19 and George Hill had 13.

"Tonight's game was a perfect example of how you can still go out and win a basketball game when your shot's not falling," coach Frank Vogel said. "Aside from George Hill, it seemed like nobody could make a perimeter shot and it was just one of those nights offensively from the field so you got to win the game in other ways."

Toronto has seen vast improvement since Dec. 13 - when the majority of the players acquired from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay deal made their club debuts. The Raptors are limiting opponents to 42.5 percent from the field in a 7-2 run since that date after that figure was at 46.6 in the first 20 games.

"No one's trying to do anything they can't do," guard Kyle Lowry said. "Everything that everyone's doing out there is what they know how to do."

The trade means that Indiana's 91-84 home win over Toronto on Nov. 8 means very little since Gay led all players with 30 points. Indiana has taken nine of the last 12 meetings, including four straight on the road.

The Pacers are winning by an average of 21.2 points over their last five games while the Raptors can reach .500 for the first time since they were 2-2.

Jonas Valanciunas is averaging 13.1 points and 10.6 rebounds in his last nine games and will match up with Hibbert, who outscored him 20-4 in the first meeting.

This contest figures to be a challenge for DeMar DeRozan, who scored 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting against the Bulls.

His only lower output came in the first matchup with the Pacers as he made 2 of 15 shots for six points. DeRozan has failed to score in double digits three times in his last 53 games - twice versus Indiana.

The Raptors are 4-2 in the second half of back-to-back games while the Pacers are 5-3.