The Toronto Raptors overcame an abysmal defensive collapse and a 19-point disadvantage Wednesday night to capture a frenzied comeback win – their 12th in a row – setting the franchise record for consecutive victories.
A three-point bucket from Serge Ibaka with 30 seconds left was the game-winner, as the Raps fought back from a rough night and beat the Indiana Pacers 119-118.
Kyle Lowry had 32 points, 10 assists and eight boards to lead Toronto, while Ibaka added 30 points. Pascal Siakam had 25 points and nine boards, battling through Indy’s defensive focus on him.
Malcolm Brogdon powered in 24 points to lead the Pacers, who led the Raps for most of the night and were seconds away from the win.
It was the last evening of games before the NBA’s trade deadline expires Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. Raptors fans may wonder until then if all the players who walked off the floor Wednesday will remain on this 37-14 team. That, by the way, is the best 51-game start in Raptors’ history.
The Pacers had Victor Oladipo, their superstar who returned to action just three games earlier, back in the fold after missing more than a year with a ruptured quad tendon in his right leg. Oladipo had injured it against the Raptors last January, chasing after Siakam.
The Raptors began Wednesday’s game looking impressively stout on defence in the first quarter. They held the Pacers to just 20 points on 40-per-cent shooting. The home team had a comfy 30-20 as the quarter closed.
Indy’s bench players then flipped the script.
The visitors opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run – much of it against a Toronto unit of Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis before the Raps starters subbed back in. Ten of those points came from Doug McDermott.
Indy had been an ice-cold 2-of-9 from three-point range in the first quarter, but in the second they were red hot from beyond the arc, draining seven of them. Justin Holiday crushed four of those in his 14-point outburst and Indy cruised into the lead.
Toronto was outscored 43-18 in that quarter, one of its worst of the season. The Raps clunked 16 of the 22 shots they put up in that quarter and went to the locker room trailing 63-48.
The Raptors were still without two key players: Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (left hand). Hollis-Jefferson was making his first appearance after a four-game absence with a sprained ankle. Oshae Brissett was unavailable, joining the injured list after spraining his ankle playing for the Raptors 905.
Toronto slipped behind by as much as 19 in the third before they began to battle back.
Siakam kept rolling to the rim even though he was missing a bunch, facing double and triple teams for most of the night. Although few of his field goals were falling, he was scoring from the free-throw line. Lowry exploded for an 11-point quarter. Undrafted rookie Davis – fresh off his career-high 31-point performance Sunday night – hit a pair of three-pointers that infused Scotiabank Arena with noise.
The Raps closed the big gap and trailed by 86-82 heading into the fourth.
Toronto opened the fourth with Davis, Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Siakam and McCaw on the floor against Indy’s reserves. They allowed the Pacers to widen their lead to eight before Lowry subbed in for McCaw.
The Raps looked as though they were headed for a loss until the final two minutes. Lowry made a 27-footer, and Siakam hit a pair of buckets to pull within two points. Toronto got creative down the stretch and used a press defence to clamp down on Indy and spur some key turnovers.
“We play 48 minutes. That’s how we play. We give ourselves a chance, put the press on, made some shots, got aggressive and played better defense down the stretch,” said Lowry. “We played a little faster, Pascal made some great plays and we made some big shots down the end.”
In a show of confidence for Davis, the Raps left him in with the starters down the stretch, in place of Anunoby. He finished the night with 11 points, including three from deep. Lowry hit big buckets down the stretch, but none was bigger than Ibaka’s corner three with 30 seconds on the clock for the win.
“Man, it’s good, feels good. Missed a couple of open threes earlier, but then Nick told me in a timeout, ‘Serge, keep shooting with confidence, just push the ball.’ He gave me a lot of confidence,” said Ibaka.”After [Lowry] passed me that ball I said to myself ‘I have to shoot that,’ because I work on this shot every day, and then it went in.”
Oladipo had 13 points for Indy on a 5-of-14 shooting night.
The 31-20 Pacers are jockeying with the Philadelphia 76ers in the fifth and sixth spots in the Eastern Conference standing.
The Raptors had won 11 games in a row three times, previously from Feb. 26 to March 16, 2018 and from Jan. 6 to 30, 2016.
The Raps have just five games left until the all-star break, including another meeting with the Pacers, Friday night in Indianapolis.