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Canada’s Nembhard leads Pacers past Raptors

TORONTO – Even though Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each had a double-double the Toronto Raptors came out flat against a conference rival.

Siakam led all scorers with 31 points and added 10 rebounds as the undermanned Raptors fell to the Indiana Pacers 118-114 on Wednesday. VanVleet scored 28 and dished out 11 assists but was still critical of Toronto’s performance.

“Just overall low energy, low complete level, lack of execution, not really trying to get done what we were trying to get done,” said VanVleet, reviewing the final box score. “We really just got completely outplayed if you watched the game, looked at the stats, in pretty much every aspect.”

Jakob Poeltl had 23 points and eight rebounds as the Raptors (35-38) saw their seven-game home winning streak snapped.

Toronto’s lineup was depleted as forwards Precious Achiuwa (right hamstring tightness), Scottie Barnes (left wrist soreness), Joe Wieskamp (right hamstring strain) and guard Gary Trent Jr. (right elbow stiffness) were all held out.

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“Clearly, we missed them today but it’s not an excuse, we could have won this game,” said Chris Boucher, who had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. “There were a couple breaks that cost us, I think there were a couple fouls that went the other way that didn’t help us.”

Andrew Nembhard of nearby Aurora, Ont., had a double-double for Indiana (33-40) with 25 points and 10 assists. Myles Turner had 16 points and seven boards.

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It was a critical win for the Pacers, who gained on the Chicago Bulls in the East standings. Following Chicago’s 116-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers later Wednesday, Indiana closed to 1 1/2 games back of the Bulls for the conference’s final play-in spot.

The Raptors remained ninth in the East, half a game up on Chicago and two ahead of the Pacers.

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“It was one of those ones,” said VanVleet of the loss. “Gotta move on, have a short-term memory and focus on the ones in front of us.”

Oshae Brissett of Mississauga, Ont., Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin and Nembhard all started for Indiana. It was the first time since starters were officially tracked in 1970-71 that three Canadian-born players started for a single team in an NBA game.

“For it to happen in Toronto, it’s pretty cool,” said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle. “All three of those guys played well. Nembhard had a great game, Mathurin was terrific.

“I thought Brissett did what he does. He gave us energy, rebounded, he scored the first five points of the game. That was great.”

O.G. Anunoby made two free throws with 9:43 left to go for an 87-86 Toronto lead. Boucher followed that up with a contested jumper and a made free throw for a four-point Raptors’ advantage.

Buddy Hield sank a field goal and Jordan Nwora made two free throws to tie it back up for Indiana.

After the two teams swapped points for several minutes, a brief 6-2 Pacers run with about six minutes left to play helped the visitors start to pull away.

Turner made a driving layup and sank the ensuing free throw to stake Indiana to a 107-102 lead and force a Raptors timeout with 3:28 left.

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Siakam hit a free throw and a jumper from under the rim to cut that lead to two. Mathurin followed that with two free throws of his own and VanVleet answered with a pair.

“Pretty much just playing hard and playing the game the right way,” said Mathurin of his seven fourth-quarter points. “I feel like it was the main thing I had to do and try to close out the game.

“Applying pressure on the rim opens up a lot of things for me. I was able to get to the line and make a couple good decisions.”

With the 19,800 fans at Scotiabank Arena chanting “DE-FENCE,” Turner drained a jump shot. At the other end of the floor, Poeltl missed a pair of free throws and then neither team could score on their following possessions, allowing the Pacers to kill the clock.

Nembhard sank a three-pointer to extend Indiana’s lead to seven with 32.5 seconds left to play. After a Raptors timeout, Siakam hit two free throws, leaving Toronto five points behind with 25.8 on the clock.

T.J. McConnell replied for Indiana with a pair of free throws and Boucher sank two. McConnell, racing around the court to kill time, was foulled with 3.1 seconds left. He made both shots from the charity stripe before Boucher hit a three-pointer as time expired.

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UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

The Pacers continue their four-game road trip with a stop in Boston on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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