Well that's not the way the Pacers intended to start 2014 — a pitiful 95-82 loss to the rising Toronto Raptors that got away from them in the second half, when they usually stamp their authority. Make no excuse, the Pacers absolutely deserved to lose this one as they were outhustled and out-energized by the Raps all night, reminiscent of when they lost their first and only home game to the Pistons.
Both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Raptors were a step faster to all the 50-50 balls all game. Coupled with foul trouble to Roy Hibbert (who was giving the Raps the most trouble) and some really really sluggish and sloppy play by the Pacers (no one could catch the ball or make a safe pass), the Pacers got their butts deservedly handed to them.
The Pacers had 22 turnovers tonight which led to a whopping 36 points for the Raptors. A huge handful of them were just lazy, sloppy stuff, trying to be fancy or not being aware of where the defenders are. They also only hit 65% (13-20) of their free throws while the Raptors were a solid 87% (20-23).
Paul George was the ringleader in the poor effort tonight, getting torched by DeMar DeRozan for 26 points while only putting up 12 in return (on 5-14 shooting), plus 6 horrendous turnovers and 5 fouls. Hibbert was the only guy who played decently, scoring 16 points before fouling out in 21 minutes, and it was clear he was frustrated by all the calls that seemed to be going the Raptors' way. The only other guy in double figures was Danny Granger, who had 11 points in yet another improving performance.
For all the putrid play, the Pacers were still up by 8 points a few minutes into the second half before the game soured for them. It seemed like the Pacers were content to be lackadaisical until crunch time, believing that they could turn on a switch and pull away from the Raptors at will. But by then it was too late and they were overwhelmed by the Raptors' ferocity.
The loss snaps a 5-game winning streak and puts the Pacers at 25-6 for the season. They'll get an opportunity for revenge next Tuesday at home, but before then they will have to face the up-and-coming Pelicans on Saturday followed by a grudge match against the Cavs in Cleveland on Sunday. The Pacers are now just a single game ahead of the Miami Heat for the best record in the East, so they really can't afford any more letdowns like this one.