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Scrappy spirit not enough to earn Raptors win

Toronto Raptors' DeRozan puts up a three-point-shot against Indiana Pacers' George during their NBA game in Toronto
Toronto Raptors' DeRozan puts up a three-point-shot against Indiana Pacers' George during their NBA game in Toronto

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Raptors delivered every ounce of effort they promised fans before their NBA home opener against Indiana on Wednesday but it would not be enough to secure the victory as the Pacers ran out 90-85 winners.

All five of Indiana's starters finished with double digits, led by 21 points from Danny Granger, to maintain their unbeaten start to the lockout-shortened season, while the Raptors dropped to 1-1.

Paul George contributed 18 points to the victory while David West had 14 and Roy Hibbert 12 to go along with 10 rebounds as the Pacers (2-0) fought off a spirited fourth quarter rally.

On a frosty night better suited to ice hockey than basketball, Toronto fans gave the Raptors a warm welcome back showing no signs of any lingering grudges from a bitter labor dispute.

The opening night festivities began with the team thanking fans for their support and Jamaal Magloire, the first Canadian to play for Raptors, telling the crowd they would get a good effort every night for their money.

A good effort is all Toronto fans might hope for from a young rebuilding team that have gone out of their way to play down expectations this season.

The fans could not complain about the scrappy spirit the team showed in the fourth quarter when they trailed by 14 and chopped the deficit to just two with 95 seconds left.

DeMar DeRozan led the charge, scoring 14 of his game-high 22 points in the final quarter, but Toronto could not complete the comeback as the Pacers held on for the win.

"We gave ourselves a chance," Raptors rookie head coach Dwane Casey told reporters. "We weren't playing against chop liver.

"I cannot fault our effort. We clawed back in, I thought DeMar came to life the second half but we have to put in a 48 minute collective effort in together.

"It wasn't from a lack of effort. The guys competed, didn't give in and got back in it with our defense."

The highlight of the night came early for Raptors fans, with Andrea Bargnani putting the first points on the board with a thundering dunk to delight the capacity crowd but Toronto trailed 18-11 after the opening quarter.

A 14-6 run in the second put Toronto briefly in front but the Pacers regained control before the break taking a 38-34 advantage that they would not surrender into the intermission.

The Pacers widened their lead in the third to 63-55 before the Raptors began to claw their way back.

Bargnani finished with 21 points while Jerryd Bayless was the only other Raptor to hit double digits with 13 points.

"It says something about our heart," said Casey. "The guys competed, they didn't give in tonight against a good Indiana team.

"Indiana is one of the top defensive teams, they are big strong, aggressive and they are going to be in the playoff hunt when the time comes."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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