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Pacers shoot to seal winning homestand vs. Raptors

Nov 11, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey, back and Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, front, fight for a loose ball during the second half at Paycom Center. Oklahoma City won 132-113. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers will conclude a four-game homestand on Saturday night when they face the busy Toronto Raptors in Indianapolis.

Toronto opened a three-games-in-four-days road swing on Friday with a 132-113 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Raptors went into Friday’s matchup with one of the NBA’s best scoring defenses through the opening weeks of the season, but the 132 points they allowed to the Thunder were 20 more than they had yielded in any game previously.

“We didn’t have much of a spark,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said on SportsNet.

A bright spot was Chris Boucher, who came off the bench to contribute 20 points and 12 rebounds. Boucher is helping to fill the void on the interior with Pascal Siakam sidelined due to an adductor strain and Precious Achiuwa out with an ankle injury.

Toronto’s health woes extended to the backcourt on Friday, with Fred VanVleet pulled from the loss due to a non-COVID illness. His status for Saturday’s game was uncertain.

The Raptors will look to regroup on defense against an Indiana offense that has been electric at times this season, particularly with its guard play.

The Pacers won the first two games of their homestand, knocking off the Miami Heat 101-99 on Nov. 4 and the New Orleans Pelicans 129-122 on Monday. The two decisions capped a stretch in which the young Pacers won four out of five.

Indiana dipped back below .500 for the season on Wednesday, however, with a 122-119 defeat against the Denver Nuggets.

Despite the setback, the Wednesday contest marked a decided positive indicator for the future of the Pacers. Rookie guard Bennedict Mathurin came off the bench to score 30 points, including an 18-point second quarter.

It was the highest-scoring period by a Pacers rookie in franchise history.

“The one thing that I’m so impressed with him is he is just undaunted,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “He just continues to play his game, doesn’t get down and continues to have a strong belief in his abilities. He is an attacker. He is a rare young player that’s just unfazed.”

Mathurin’s average of 20.4 points per game ranks second among all Pacers. Third-year guard Tyrese Haliburton — acquired in a trade that sent Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings in February — is averaging 21.6 points per game, and his average of 9.9 assists per contest ranks second in the NBA.

Buddy Hield, who came over in the same trade as Haliburton, is scoring 18.5 points per game. The trio of Haliburton, Hield and Mathurin are all shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range to buoy an offense that is tied for first in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game.

But while the Pacers’ offense ranks third in the league at 117.3 points per game, their defense has been among the league’s most porous at 118.4 points surrendered a contest (26th among the 30 teams).

Toronto has alternated wins and losses over its past six games and has not dropped back-to-back decisions since the second and third outings of the season. Those defeats to the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat came on a road back-to-back.

–Field Level Media