SPORTS

Granger scores 21, Pacers beat Raptors 90-85 to spoil Toronto's home-opener

12/28/2011 08:39 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Eight months since they'd played a regular-season game in Toronto, the Raptors were keen to get back on the Air Canada Centre court.

Maybe a bit too keen.

DeMar DeRozan scored 16 if his 22 points in a thrilling fourth quarter for Toronto, but it wasn't enough to lead the Raptors past the Indiana Pacers in a 90-85 loss that new Raptors coach Dwane Casey blamed partly on "first-game jitters."

"I thought everyone was hesitant and tight in the first half. . . wanting to do so well," Casey said. "Because (the loss) wasn't for lack of effort. It does say something about our hearts, that guys competed, they didn't give in tonight against a good Indiana team."

Andrea Bargnani had 21 points, while Jerryd Bayless added 13 for the Raptors (1-1).

Danny Granger scored 21 points to top the Pacers (2-0), who spoiled a home opener billed as "The Bounce is Back!", coming on the heels of the NBA lockout that pushed the curtain-raiser back two months.

"It's been a long time, I can't remember the last time we played here," DeRozan said. "The crowd was definitely with us, I don't know what a playoff game feels like, but if it feels like that, it was definitely fun to play in front of.

"It just felt weird being back on your court playing your first game, especially after so many months. We needed that, we needed a good fight like that to show us what we have."

DeRozan's hard work and hot hand were largely responsible for Toronto's fourth-quarter fight. The Pacers had led for most of the night over a home team that had committed 11 turnovers in a shaky first half, and 19 on the night. The Pacers led by as much as 12 points in the third quarter before taking a 63-55 advantage into the fourth.

But DeRozan drained five consecutive baskets midway through the fourth, then a big three-pointer with 1:59 to go. A driving layup and free throw by Bargnani with 1:35 to go cut the Pacers' lead to 83-81, much to the delight of the capacity crowd of 19,800 red-clad fans.

The jubilation was short-lived as a wide-open Granger launched a three with 1:14 to go and David West drained a fadeaway jumper with nine seconds left that clinched the victory for the visitors.

"I thought it was a good win for our club," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We know we have got to play .500 ball on the road if we are going to take that next step into being one of elite teams and this was the first step in doing that."

Despite the Raptors' loss, the game was a festive affair with fans wearing red T-shirts — a pre-game giveaway — and waving white towels. A videotaped message featured players thanking the fans for their patience through the labour dispute.

Raptors centre Jamaal Magloire, a Toronto native and off-season acquisition, took centre-court to address the crowd, thanking the Raptors for "bringing me back to the city I love and the city I'm from."

The 11-year NBA veteran said he felt a swell of emotion during the playing of O Canada.

"Hearing the national anthem, I always heard the national anthem in elementary school growing up, but it was a lot more special today, not that it was any different, it just felt surreal," Magloire said. "This thing has taken a 360-degree turn, I was born here, raised here, I left here when I was 18-years-old to go to college, and for it to come back around after 12 years in the NBA was something that I'll never forget.

He praised the rowdy Air Canada Centre crowd.

"The crowd is I would say one of the best crowds, not only in the NBA in the present day, but that I've ever seen," said Magloire. "The atmosphere was like the playoffs. You don't see that until playoffs."

Paul George added 18 points for the Pacers (2-0), while David West had 14, Roy Hibbert finished with 12, and Darren Collison had 10.

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, in a purple Raptors cap, sat courtside. During a timeout, he took a long jump shot that bounced off the glass.

Toronto, coming off a 104-96 victory versus the Cavaliers in their season-opener two days earlier in Cleveland, shot 46 per cent on the night to Indiana's 39, while the Pacers held a 41-39 advantage on the boards.

The Pacers raced out to a nine-point lead midway through the first on back-to-back threes by George. Indiana led 18-11 heading into the second.

The Raptors opened the second quarter with a 14-6 run to take a one-point lead on a jumper by Bargnani, and three minutes later a Bargnani three-pointer put Toronto up 32-30. But their lead was short-lived as the visitors pulled ahead to take a 38-34 lead into the dressing room at halftime.

The Pacers padded their lead to a game-high 12 points late in the third with a 17-6 run. A running layup by James Johnson at the buzzer cut the Pacers' lead to 63-55 with a quarter left to play.

NOTES: Raptors centre Aaron Gray was on the active roster for the game, but the team announced he wouldn't play. He sat the opener against Cleveland with a rapid heart rate. . . . Toronto lost last year's home opener to the New York Knicks. . . The Raptors play their next three on the road, beginning Friday at Dallas. They'll play in Orlando and New York before returning home to host Cleveland on Feb. 4. . . . The Pacers beat Detroit 91-79 in their opener.

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