Pacers-Raptors Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 12, 2012
Danny Granger is not too concerned about his early season shooting woes. The Toronto Raptors might be more worried about DeMar DeRozan's sluggish start, especially if Andrea Bargnani is out for an extended period. Granger and the Indiana Pacers go for their second victory in Toronto this season Friday night when the Raptors look to get back on track before hitting the road. Granger is among the worst in the league in field goal percentage at 33.6, but he shot 9 of 16 and scored a season-best 24 points in Wednesday's 96-84 victory over Atlanta. He missed the Pacers' previous game due to food poisoning. "I never shoot good at the beginning of the season," Granger said after Indiana improved to 7-3 for the first time in six seasons. "Nothing different." Not necessarily. Granger averaged 22.1 points on 47.6 percent shooting through the first 10 games of 2010-11, although the Pacers were just 5-5. He is a 35.5 percent shooter in 11 games in Toronto, but he made 8 of 19 and scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter of a 90-85 victory Dec. 28 that spoiled the Raptors' home opener. Indiana had dropped five in a row and eight of nine at Toronto. The Raptors (4-7) will look to regain their home-court edge in this series following their fourth defeat in five games overall, 98-91 to visiting Sacramento on Wednesday. Toronto dropped two straight to finish a stretch of three games in as many nights, but the bigger loss could be Bargnani, who left Wednesday's game in the third quarter with a strained left calf. "He's our best player for sure," point guard Jose Calderon said after posting his fourth double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. "After they let us know he wasn't coming out again, it was tough." It's uncertain if Bargnani, the team leader with 22.3 points per game, will miss any time. Either way, DeRozan needs to get accustomed to being one of the focal points of opposing defenses. The third-year guard is scoring 8.8 points per game while shooting 30.9 percent over his last five contests. His season averages of 14.1 points and 41.0 percent are down significantly from 2010-11. "(DeMar) and Andrea have the respect of the league," coach Dwane Casey said Wednesday. "(DeMar) has to learn how to play against a man and a half, not only just his guy." That's even more important as Casey said the Raptors - who play three straight and 11 of 14 on the road following Friday's game - have "got to get some execution offensively." Toronto is among the lowest-scoring teams in the league at 87.8 points per game. The Pacers are giving up 89.4 per contest on 41.5 percent shooting. Indiana figures to put plenty of pressure on DeRozan, who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter Dec. 28. Indiana, opening a stretch of nine of 12 away from home, will also have to keep an eye on Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa, who is averaging 16.3 points off the bench in the last three games after scoring a season-best 24 on Wednesday.
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