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Stephenson Sparks Indy in Back-And-Forth Battle With Raptors

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers (11-8) continue to win and on Friday night, Lance Stephenson provided the spark.

Stephenson scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge three-point shots late, to help Indy hold on for a 107-104 win over the Toronto Raptors (11-7). Indiana’s winning streak is now at a season-high five straight games.

The first quarter of Friday’s game belonged to the Pacers, who led 29-25 after one. Separate 12-0 and 13-0 runs helped put the Blue and Gold in position for the lead.

Quarter number two was all Toronto, however. The Raptors outscored Indy 35-21, going into the break up 60-50. Toronto led by as many as 12 in the second, taking advantage of a poor shooting period from the home team.

Out of the half, Victor Oladipo led the charge for Indiana. The former Indiana University standout scored the first seven points of the third quarter, pulling Indy within three. Bojan Bogdanovic followed with the next eight Pacer points, as Indiana turned the tables in the third quarter. It was relatively even from there, as Indiana went into the fourth with a 81-80 edge.

It was close, but the Pacers were in front for most of the fourth quarter. Toronto evened the score at 92 with 6:06 remaining, setting up for a great finish.

A Thaddeus Young three-point play, followed by a pair of Myles Turner free throws, shot Indy ahead 97-92 and set the stage for Stephenson. Back down on the offensive attack, Stephenson drilled a three from the right side to push Indiana ahead by eight. Then after grabbing one of his seven rebounds, Stephenson raced down the floor and buried another triple from the left wing to make it 103-92 and force a Raptors timeout.

That timeout brought some life back to Toronto, who fired off eight straight points to put themselves back into the ballgame in the closing minutes.

Stephenson would come up clutch again, however, knocking down yet another three-pointer to give the Pacers a 106-100 cushion.

The Raptors would not go down easy, though, scoring a pair of hoops to cut Indy’s lead down to two with 31.8 seconds to go. Stephenson came up short on Indiana’s next possession, but back on Toronto’s end DeMar DeRozan misfired on the Rap’s best shot to tie the game. Darren Collison made one of two free throws after that, but with no timeouts left, Toronto was forced to rush and ended up seeing Fred VanVleet‘s game-tying three go way off line.

In victory, Indiana did get hit with a loss. Midway through the fourth quarter, Oladipo left the game with a bruised right knee. He did not return and his status for Saturday’s game versus Boston is up in the air.

Six Pacers finished in double-figures on Friday. Oladipo led the way with 21, while Bogdanovic stayed hot with 19 of his own. Stephenson (18), Collison (17), Domantas Sabonis (13) and Young (12) rounded out Indy’s top scorers.

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry had a big night for the visitors. The All-Star guard finished just shy of a  triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

Indiana will take on the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics in the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday night. Tipoff from downtown Indy is slated once again for 8:00 p.m.

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