Pacers boost playoff hopes with comeback win over Raptors

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 04: Lance Stephenson #6 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates during the 108-90 win over the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George scored 18 of his 35 points in the third quarter Tuesday night and the desperate Indiana Pacers rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit and blew out Toronto 108-90.

The Pacers ended a four-game losing streak that saw them slide from a tie for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference to the very real possibility of missing the postseason.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which had won its previous two.

It was an astounding comeback for Indiana, which was so lethargic in the first half it needed an 8-2 spurt just to get within 51-40 at halftime.

The game was marred by a shoving match between Indiana’s Lance Stephenson and DeRozan with 3.3 seconds left. The melee spilled down the sideline and into the Pacers’ bench, where Toronto’s P.J. Tucker was still jawing with Pacers players.

Stephenson, Tucker and DeRozan all received technical fouls.

But it couldn’t taint one of the Pacers’ biggest turnarounds of the season — a game they hope will help them make a final push into the postseason.

Indiana took its first lead on Jeff Teague’s 3-pointer with 5:48 left in the third, then watched George close out the quarter by scoring 14 of the Pacers’ last 19 points.

Toronto never challenged again after the Pacers opened the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to make it 88-77.

With four games left and already down tiebreakers to Chicago, which started the night in the No. 7 spot, and Miami, which was tied with Indiana for the last playoff spot, Indiana knew what it needed to do: Win.

George took that responsibility upon himself after a conversation with coach Nate McMillan, and he delivered with a huge third quarter that turned around the game and perhaps Indiana’s season.

The Pacers were 9 of 13 on 3-pointers in the second half.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Now trail Boston by 3½ games in the Atlantic Division with four games to go. … Despite Tuesday’s loss, Toronto has won nine of the last 11 regular-season games and three straight season series against Indiana. … The Raptors finished with 11 assists, ending a streak of five straight games with 20 or more. … DeMarre Carroll had 11 points, Cory Joseph scored 10 and Serge Ibaka had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Pacers: Teague had 20 points and six assists, and Stephenson received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the first quarter. Stephenson finished with 12 points. … Thaddeus Young scored 15 points, his fifth straight game in double figures. … McMillan said Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) was off crutches and out of the boot and is doing light jogging. Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf) still has not returned to practice.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Can clinch a fourth straight season with a winning road record at Detroit on Wednesday.

Pacers: Will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 6 when they host Milwaukee on Thursday.