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DeRozan, Valanciunas come up big as Raptors keep rolling

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) tries to make his way through Indiana Pacers forward Rakeem Christmas (25) as Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) looks on during first half NBA basketball action, in Toronto on Friday, March 31, 2017.


DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points to help Toronto beat the Pacers 111-100 Friday, allowing the Raptors to keep up in the congested race for the top of the Eastern Conference while dealing a blow to Indiana's post-season hopes.

DeRozan added nine rebounds and four assists for the Raptors (46-30), while Jonas Valanciunas looked just as dominant as he did in Toronto's seven-game win over Indiana in the first round of last year's playoffs with 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Serge Ibaka added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who are now winners of seven of their last eight despite the absence of star guard Kyle Lowry, who's still recovering from right wrist surgery.

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Versatile swingman Paul George amassed 28 points and nine rebounds but couldn't halt the recent downward slide of the Pacers (37-39), who have now lost five of their last six as they jostle for one of the last two playoff spots in the East with Miami, Chicago and Detroit.

Neither team managed to pull away in the first half, with the Pacers carrying a two-point lead into halftime after a less-than-pretty 24 minutes that saw the Raptors shoot 37 per cent from the field while at times looking discombobulated at both ends.

Their focus intensified in the third.

DeRozan, again almost impossible to stop offensively, scored nine of the team's first 11 points in the quarter – including a pair of three-pointers – to help the Raptors re-take the lead.

Then Valanciunas went to work, ultimately producing a 12-point, 13-rebound quarter including a picturesque baseline dunk over Rakeem Christmas's outstretched hands. Apparently encouraged, Valanciunas two possessions later decided to pump-fake a three-pointer before driving from 23-feet out and trying to dunk over George, who mercifully fouled the hulking Lithuanian as the bemused crowd cheered.

The Pacers simply couldn't get close again after that as the teams traded baskets in the fourth. A pair of free throws from Pacers guard Jeff Teague cut the Raptors' lead to 104-97 with 1:15 left.

On the next play, Ibaka swung the ball to DeRozan, who swished a high-arching three-pointer from 27 feet out. The Pacers seemed to deflate after that.

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Second-year point guard Delon Wright gave the Raptors a buoyant boost off the bench, posting 11 points and six rebounds on only five shots while proving a vexing disruption on the defensive end. DeMarre Carroll added 12 points for the Raptors, who next play Sunday against the woeful Philadelphia 76ers.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey sounded an optimistic note on Lowry, who's been out since the all-star break. "Hopefully we can get him in for a couple games before the playoffs start," Casey said.

By some scheduling quirk, the Pacers and Raptors play all three of their games against each other this season in a span of less than three weeks. Toronto won the first matchup 116-91. They face off again Tuesday in Indianapolis.

It was the seventh 40-plus-point game this season for DeRozan.

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