for this game

Pacers withstand late charge, top Raptors

Jan 17, 2009 - 5:11 AM By Chris Nelsen PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Danny Granger and the Indiana Pacers were more than happy to spoil Jermaine O'Neal's return to Conseco Fieldhouse. But it turned out to be much closer than the Pacers would have liked.

Granger finished with 23 points and Mike Dunleavy scored 22 as Indiana held off a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Toronto Raptors en route to a 111-104 triumph Friday night.

Trailing by 24 points entering the final quarter, the Raptors reeled off an 11-0 run to open the period and get within 89-76. The Pacers, who missed their first five shots of the period, finally got on the board with Jeff Foster's dunk with 8:12 left in the game.

Minutes later, Andrea Bargnani's 3-pointer cut the deficit to single digits, 94-85, and the Raptors eventually got within 100-99 on Anthony Parker's jumper with 1:13 remaining.

"We did not get the job done toward the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter," Dunleavy said.

"Guys were lolly-gagging around and we let them back in it. Once they get some momentum, it doesn't matter who you put back in the game, it can be tough to stop. Fortunately, we were able to come out on top and win the game."

That would be as close as the Raptors would get as Dunleavy was fouled shooting a 3-pointer on the Pacers' ensuing possession and he made all three free throws to push the lead back to four points.

"Mike is real savvy, he got his man up in the air and converted all three free throws," Granger said. "That was great for us, that put us back up four. That pretty much put us over the top."

Following a turnover by Toronto, Granger's layup extended the advantage to 105-99 with 25 seconds left.

"I keep telling these guys, they got to start embracing the moment down the stretch," Dunleavy said. "Instead of fearing it or dreading it, let's go out there and embrace it, relish it and take advantage of it. We want guys taking shots and looking for their shots down the stretch so we can win games opposed to not losing."

Jason Kapono's 3-pointer got the Raptors within three, but Jarrett Jack nailed six free throws in the closing seconds to seal the victory for Indiana, which won consecutive games for just the fourth time this season.

The game was O'Neal's first back here after being traded to the Raptors in the offseason for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston and the draft rights to Roy Hibbert. O'Neal, who spent eight seasons with the Pacers, had just two points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes. He had missed the previous nine games with a right knee injury.

"I really tried to take it as another game, but it's always special to be back here," said O'Neal, who was selected to six All-Star games with the Pacers. "I had an opportunity to see a lot of people yesterday that I haven't seen in a while."

O'Neal heard his share of boos from the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd on Friday.

"People that boo, to be honest, I really don't care," he said. "This city has meant a great deal to me, and I appreciate the support I got tonight. But the people that don't like me for whatever reason, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't change my life whatsoever."

Despite their near miraculous comeback and Chris Bosh's 25 points and 16 rebounds, the Raptors dropped their fourth straight game.

Jack finished with 17 points and seven assists and Troy Murphy added 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers.

"Good win, but we didn't make it easy on ourselves," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "We will never back off on tempo or ball movement when a team is coming back. That's the worst possible message to send to your players."

The contest was even at 20-20 after one quarter but, behind Granger's 14 second-quarter points, the Pacers began to create some separation.

Indiana used an 11-2 run, which was capped by Granger's layup, to open a 46-32 advantage. The Pacers took their biggest lead of the first half, 54-38, on Dunleavy's 3-pointer.

The Pacers began the second half with a 19-9 spurt to extend the lead to 75-51. The Raptors got within 18 later in the period, but Ford's jumper to end the third quarter made the score 89-65.

"We just didn't play well in the first three quarters," Raptors interim coach Jay Triano said. "Good things happened at the end of the game, but we still didn't win the game."

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