Pacers hand Raptors 12th straight loss
Pacers president Larry Bird had two points of emphasis when he introduced interim coach Frank Vogel: he expected more wins and wanted to see the team's young guys play a key role in getting them.
He got both on Monday. Third-year centre Roy Hibbert had 24 points and 11 rebounds to help Indiana beat the Toronto Raptors 104-93 in Vogel's debut.
Jim O'Brien was fired on Sunday, and a day later, Vogel got the game ball. The new coach talked his players out of a different celebration.
"They threatened to dump my head into some of their little ice buckets where they sink their ankles into," Vogel said. "And then they threatened to dump those on me. And I said 'there's two of them, so whoever dumps me is going to get one themselves.' So they did not do that."
The game ball could have gone to Hibbert. The seven-foot-two centre from Georgetown started the season well, but fell out of favour with O'Brien when he began to struggle. Vogel promised to let Hibbert play through his mistakes, and he rewarded his new coach with his highest-scoring game since Nov. 28.
"It was an emphasis tonight of, 'Roy, get in the post, get in the post,'" Hibbert said. "I don't think I made a lot of plays from the foul line area and the thing was, if you have a seven-footer, put them down low and make some plays."
That wasn't all for Indiana's youngsters.
Second-year point guard Darren Collison and rookie Paul George scored 16 points, and second-year forward Tyler Hansbrough added 14.
George scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.
"Paul George was a pleasant surprise," Vogel said. "He played well enough to go with him down the stretch, and to go with a rookie down the stretch in your first game was a little bit of a leap of faith for me. He earned it, and I felt confident that he was the right guy to have in the game."
Toronto's losing streak increased to 12 games. The Raptors gave up 100 or more points for the eighth straight contest.
Amir Johnson led Toronto with 18 points, and Jose Calderon and Ed Davis added 13. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto's leading scorer this season, finished with 12 points on three-for-15 shooting.
"We have to be frustrated," Calderon said. "Everybody is thinking we want to win. We have to keep working and take the positive parts. We just have to keep working and stay together."
An off night by Danny Granger, Indiana's top scorer, didn't slow the Pacers. Granger scored 11 points, but the Pacers outrebounded the Raptors 56-38 to make up for committing 25 turnovers.
Indiana led 48-28 in the second quarter before the Raptors went on a 13-0 run that helped them trim the Pacers' advantage to 51-45 at halftime.
Toronto scored the first six points of the second half to tie the score at 51, but Hibbert made two straight baskets to give Indiana the lead again. Granger scored seven points in a run that pushed the Pacers' lead to 67-59. The Pacers led 75-70 at the end of the third quarter.
"Sometimes how you handle a run by the other team is not so much making an adjustment or putting Band-Aids on what's bleeding on defence," Vogel said. "Sometimes the best way to stop a run is to hit a bucket. I just focused on how we can execute more offensively."
Hibbert scored in close, then made two free throws to extend Indiana's lead to 91-82 with just under six minutes remaining. A long pass from Josh McRoberts turned into a dynamic one-handed alley-oop jam by George that pushed the lead to 11 points.
The crowd, sparse because of a winter storm, gave the Pacers two standing ovations in the final minute.
The Pacers feel they are off to a good start on their mission to get back into the playoff race.
"We played a little bit more loose," Granger said. "When you have a new situation, there's always an initial excitement about it, but we have to make sure we carry it over."