Jan 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) puts the ball up for a shot with Toronto Raptors power forward Amir Johnson (left) and shooting guard Terrence Ross (31) defending during the fourth quarter of a game at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto won the game 95-82. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Raps 95 - Indiana Pacers 82: Maturing before our eyes

The Toronto Raptors have taken a giant step forward. By defeating the Indiana Pacers, a healthy powerhouse on a 5-game win streak, Toronto has shown the world its recent success is not a fluke. The Raps looked nothing like the impostors we saw in Chicago on Tuesday night. They received production from their entire rotation, and once again ran away and hid from their opponents with dominating fourth quarter play.

Jan 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) drives the ball pst Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the third quarter of a game at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto won the game 95-82. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan led the game’s scorers with 26 points. While his efficiency wasn’t his highest, he attacked all night. Roy Hibbert, Indiana’s giant shot-blocking centre, was in foul trouble early (and would foul out after steamrolling Kyle Lowry late in the game), so DD was able to take the ball to the hoop with impunity. He hit 8 of 9 from the charity stripe.

Jonas Valanciunas was equal to the task of dealing with Hibbert, scoring 13 points and grabbing 9 boards. He and Amir Johnson were constantly harassing Pacers in the paint, with considerable success. Indiana scored 14 fewer points than its average.

Terrence Ross continued his on-again off-again trend with an ON game. Not only did he pour in 18 points, he was active on defense, as 3 steals will attest. So will holding Pacer forward Paul George to 12 points. Coach Dwane Casey is showing increased confidence in TRoss; he didn’t yank him off the floor late, like he did against the Bulls.

Kyle Lowry didn’t need to pour on the points, although 13 is hardly a disaster, and spent the night passing the ball. He ended with 14 assists, but he wasn’t the only one dishing. The team was credited with 27 assists on 34 field goals, a wonderful ratio.

Coach Casey continued with his tight 9-man rotation, which meant no minutes once again for Steve Novak, Chuck Hayes, Landry Fields and Austin Daye. Considering the tight defense, and enough scoring to be dangerous, the second unit is providing, I think those folks may be on the pine for some time. Tyler Hansbrough, playing against the team that cut him loose, pulled down 6 rebounds, and played with even more chippiness than usual. Patrick Patterson is becoming the second unit’s glue guy. I really liked his defensive support on the perimeter, and his passing.

Toronto has become a team which doesn’t care who scores, and that’s such a refreshing development. They are also showing some defensive teeth, allowing fewer than 84 points in 3 of their last 4 matches. Little wonder they have only one loss in their past seven games.

The Raptors travel to Washington for a Friday night tilt against the Wizards.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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