Raptors desperate to snap losing streak
The Toronto Raptors have lost 11 straight games, but it wasn't hard to picture Jay Triano's team struggling as it moves on without Chris Bosh.
In the midst of a fourth straight disappointing season under Jim O'Brien, the Indiana Pacers decided they've seen enough.
A day after firing O'Brien, the Pacers go forward with interim coach Frank Vogel on Monday night when they look to send the Raptors to their longest losing streak in more than eight years.
Indiana (17-27) went 104-142 in O'Brien's first three seasons on the sidelines — failing to make the playoffs — but there was some optimism after a 9-7 start that included road wins against Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Any potential progress has disappeared. The Pacers are 8-20 since the beginning of December, and Saturday's 110-89 loss at Chicago — their seventh in eight games — dropped them two games behind Charlotte for the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed.
O'Brien was ejected late in the fourth quarter after picking up his second technical, and that turned out to be his last act as coach. Indiana replaced him Sunday and handed the reigns to Vogel, who was also O'Brien's assistant in Philadelphia and Boston.
"We've been looking at everything with our team, from the beginning of the season and now at the halfway mark and I think at this time a change is necessary," said team president Larry Bird, who said Vogel will give more playing time to youngsters Paul George and Lance Stephenson while continuing to play Tyler Hansbrough.
"This isn't all on Jim. All of us share in the responsibility for where we're at and where we need to go."
Vogel might not have to wait long to earn his first win. Toronto (13-35) hit rock bottom Saturday at Minnesota, shooting a season-worst 33.7 per cent in a 103-87 loss to the last-place Timberwolves.
A loss Monday would give the Raptors their first 12-game skid since Dec. 18, 2002-Jan. 10, 2003 — the season before they drafted Bosh.
"In life you deal with adversity. You grow as a person, and as a basketball player," said rookie forward Ed Davis, who had 15 points off the bench. "I'm just taking it as a learning experience."
Toronto averaged 101.0 points in its first 37 games, but it's put up just 93.7 points per game during the losing streak. Leading scorer Andrea Bargnani has played a big role in his team's recent struggles, shooting 35.2 per cent over his last eight games.
"Andrea is a little bit out of sync," Triano told the NBA's official website. "Sometimes when he has a shot he doesn't take it. He's thinking about it too much."
The Raptors certainly need Bargnani to play well to win. They're 12-14 when he scores 18 or more points and 0-16 when he's held to 17 or fewer.
Toronto's defence was out of sync when they visited Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 6. The Pacers shot 55.3 per cent and put seven players in double figures in a 124-100 win, led by Brandon Rush's 26 points off the bench.
Rush is currently out with a sprained right ankle.
Indiana has averaged 120.0 points in five straight home victories over the Raptors, averaging an impressive 48.4 points in the paint.
Roy Hibbert had 13 points in the first meeting, but he's been a major disappointment of late in the Pacers' frontcourt. A public target of criticism from O'Brien, Hibbert averaged just 6.9 points in Indiana's last 11 losses, shooting 34.4 per cent.
Vogel doesn't expect that to continue.
"I expect his game to take off," he said Sunday.
Hansbrough is questionable after missing the last two games with pneumonia.