TORONTO — Dwane Casey was much happier with his team's effort in a 120-115 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night after lamenting his club's third quarter issues the previous two days.
The Raptors were able to weather a push from Indiana to lead 94-89 through three. Then leading 103-98 with 8:31 remaining in the fourth, Toronto scored nine straight to push their lead to 14 and never looked back.
"The force we were playing with, running the floor, just the pace that we set, moving the basketball, we had 29 assists and I was really pleased with the way we came out in the third quarter," Casey said. "Now we've got to create a habit, it's one game.
"We've got to make sure we create a habit of coming out with force, running the floor (and) moving the basketball."
DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 26 points, five rebounds and five assists on Friday as the Raptors (14-7) stretched their win streak to three games and improved to 8-1 at Air Canada Centre. The Pacers (12-11) meanwhile have dropped back-to-back games.
The Raptors held a 10-point lead going into the second half last Friday in Indiana and watched it fade as the Pacers outscored them 31-20 in the third and went on to a 107-104 win.
In Wednesday's 126-113 victory over Charlotte, Toronto led by 19 entering the second half only to have it shrink to two points four minutes into the third quarter and were out-scored 33-22 in the period.
Though there were improvements on Friday, the Raptors were still outscored 31-29 and have been outscored in the third in 10 of 11 games.
"We're trying. The thing about it is we're trying," said DeRozan. "We're going to get it. Just understand that's one of the areas that we really really need to work on so as long as we stay conscious of that, we should continue to get better."
Jakob Poeltl had a career-best 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting off the bench while Serge Ibaka added 15 points and eight rebounds for Toronto.
Poeltl has now scored in double-digits five times this season — something he only did three times in 54 games as a rookie.
"I've been working on it a lot, my finishing and things paying off," he said. "Obviously there's not a whole lot of defensive focus on me so I'm trying to use that space to finish."
Victor Oladipo had a game-high 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the loss while Myles Turner chipped in with 17 points and six rebounds.
"I was just trying to do whatever it takes to keep us going, to keep us in the game," said Oladipo of his 11-point third quarter. "Go out there and play as hard as I can on both ends."
Oladipo paced all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but it was the Raptors who led 65-58 at the break on 12 points from DeRozan.
Indiana scored 14 unanswered to jump out to a 32-27 lead after one quarter. Turner and Oladipo each had nine points for the Pacers.
Toronto got out to an early 14-8 first quarter lead on the strength of a 7-0 run. DeRozan had six and Ibaka added five for the Raptors in the first.
Notes: Raptors C Lucas Nogueira missed his first game with a muscle tear in his right calf suffered in Wednesday's win against Charlotte. … The 105th Grey Cup-winning Toronto Argonauts were honoured following the first quarter. … Toronto concludes its three-game home stand on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns. … The Raptors and Pacers continue their four-game season series on March 15 at Indiana.
Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press