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Raptors-Pacers Preview

Dec 14, 2015 - 3:43 AM Toronto may still be in for a far more difficult rematch than its season-opening win over Indiana, though it would have been much more obvious about two weeks ago.

The Pacers have been struggling with four losses in their last five games following a 12-2 stretch and look to start turning things around Monday night against the streaking Raptors in the opener of their three-game homestand.

Indiana's 106-99 loss at Toronto on Oct. 28 kicked off an 0-3 start to the season before Paul George heated up and sparked a tear that put the Pacers one-half game behind first-place Cleveland in the Central Division.

Things have since taken a downturn with Saturday's 118-96 loss at Detroit dropping Indiana (13-9) two back and into third in the Central.

George, who averaged 29.6 points during the surge, has been erratic during the five-game slump. He's still averaged a respectable 25.6 in that span, but that figure has been inflated by a pair of games in which he scored a career-high 48 and 33 points - both coming in losses to Utah and Golden State.

The star forward's inconsistency hasn't fully damaged Indiana's offense, which has still averaged 109.0 points in the last five games. That mark exceeds the Pacers' season average of 103.5, which is among the league's leaders.

They managed to shoot 50 percent against the Pistons, including 57.5 in the first half, despite going 3 of 16 from 3-point range. It's their defense that's been the main culprit, giving up an average of 115.4 points in the last five.

The Pistons, coming off a win at Philadelphia the night before, shot nearly 45 percent from 3-point range alone, going 13 of 29, and outrebounded the Pacers 46-33.

"Tonight was a disappointing effort on the defensive end," coach Frank Vogel said. "They played last night, too, so that's no excuse."

George Hill led the Pacers with 14 points, while George was two off his season low with 13 on 4-of-16 shooting and missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc.

George and Indiana's offense will definitely be tested by the Atlantic-leading Raptors (15-9), who have won four straight with tight defense and also played well in the two losses preceding the streak.

Since falling 106-105 to Denver on Dec. 3 and pushing the league-leading Warriors down to the wire in a 112-109 defeat two days later, Toronto has beaten the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Milwaukee and the 76ers by allowing an average of 86.5 points.

Although the Pacers have started clicking since losing to the Raptors, they shot a season-worst 37.2 percent that night despite five players scoring in double figures and George flirting with a triple-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

They also allowed Jonas Valunciunas - who has since been lost to a broken hand - Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to combine for 69 points and were outworked on the glass 50-40 in their fifth straight loss in the series.

DeRozan scored 25 and Luis Scola added 22 in Sunday's 96-76 win over league-worst Philadelphia, which shot 33.3 percent and scored a season low for a Toronto opponent.

DeRozan has been outstanding during the streak, shooting 31 of 60 from the field and 34 of 37 from the free throw line while averaging 24.0 points per game.

"He's just taking what the game is giving him. He's not forcing anything," coach Dwane Casey said. "When you do that, good things happen for you."

The Raptors have won two straight and four of six at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.