Raptors set home win record against Pacers
Raptors rest DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Luis Scola
The Toronto Raptors' motto all season long has been: next man up. It was written for games like Friday night's.
While DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola took the night off for some much-needed rest, the Raptors ran roughshod over the Indiana Pacers, 111-98, setting a new franchise record of 31 home wins in a season, in what could be a potential first-round playoff match-up.
"We're definitely on the right track, we're doing well right now, catching a good rhythm to be able to rest our main guys and still come out with a W is huge for us," said Cory Joseph, who played in a facemask to protect his fractured nose.
Raptors rookie Norman Powell led the way with 27 points, while Delon Wright added 19, and Joseph finished with 18 points and nine assists. Terrence Ross chipped in with 14 points for Toronto (53-26), while Jonas Valanciunas had 10.
"They came out and played," coach Dwane Casey said of his young guns. "That's one thing you don't have to worry about and that's effort and intensity."
Joseph looked like something out of "Mad Max" in his white mask, thanks to an accidental Valanciunas elbow the previous night.
With just three games left in the regular season, and the Raptors' playoff spot secure, Casey opted to rest his two all-stars plus Scola after they played major minutes in Thursday's 95-87 loss at Atlanta.
Despite a mixed bag of a starting lineup — Valanciunas was the only regular starter — the Raptors raced out to a 20-15 lead to end the first quarter, and then took a 50-46 advantage into the halftime break.
Indiana crept back to within six points in the third, but Toronto took an 82-66 lead into the fourth quarter against a Pacers squad still fighting for post-season positioning. Indiana arrived in Toronto just a half-game ahead of Detroit for the No. 8 seed in the East, and could have booked its post-season spot with a victory at the Air Canada Centre.
But it was the Raptors who dominated all night long, and when Wright scored on a driving layup with just over six minutes to play, it put Toronto ahead by 19 points, and brought the towel-waving players on the bench to their feet, screaming their approval.
"That shows you how much of a team we are," Wright said. "When other guys are in, I try to get up and cheer for them, just to get some energy into the game."
Powell, who also hit 14 of 19 free throws, said he was proud of how the entire team performed.
"Not just me and Delon," Powell said. "We really moved the ball, played together, focused on defence. And it just shows how deep we are when guys like Kyle and DeMar and Scola can take a game off, and we have a big team win like that. It just shows how good and talented we are when we play together and lock in."
8 days to NBA post-season
Monta Ellis led the Pacers (42-36) with 17 points.
DeMarre Carroll also sat out the game for precautionary reasons. Carroll, who will be a key piece in the playoffs, had played the previous night, his first action since missing 41 games due to knee surgery.
The Raptors play Sunday in New York, are back to host Philadelphia on Tuesday, then cap their regular-season Wednesday in Brooklyn.
Eight days before the NBA post-season tips off, Joseph said getting other players involved is as important as resting the Raptors' stars.
"Getting time for everybody will be huge for us in the playoffs, because you never know what might happen," Joseph said. "Everybody at some point in the playoffs probably will be used."