Although DeMar DeRozan has ended his shooting slump, the Toronto Raptors may need to play better defense to claim their longest winning streak in more than five weeks.
As they continue a soft portion of the schedule, the Atlantic Division leaders go after their third straight win Tuesday night against a last-place Indiana Pacers team looking to build on its best shooting effort of the season.
DeRozan, Toronto’s second-leading scorer at 18.1 per game, had looked sharp upon his return from a 21-game absence due to a groin injury, averaging 22.3 points on 54.0 percent shooting in his first three games back.
The layoff, however, may have finally caught up with DeRozan when he scored just 4.7 per game and missed 28 of 34 shots while the Raptors (29-15) took two of three on a trip that ended Friday in Philadelphia.
With a renewed effort to get to the free throw line, the shooting guard got back on track Sunday with 25 points in a 114-110 home win over Detroit. He went 8 for 10 at the foul line after attempting three free throws over his previous three games.
“I almost forgot how I used to get to the line,” said DeRozan, who is averaging 23.0 points in 12 games when he’s gone to the line at least eight times. “It felt good. I just wanted to get out there and be aggressive.”
DeRozan was sidelined during Toronto’s 106-94 home win over the Central Division-worst Pacers (16-30) on Dec. 12, but he’s scored 24.7 per game while going 22 for 25 from the charity stripe in his last three meetings.
The Raptors will look to regroup defensively in their third game in a stretch of five straight versus teams with losing records. They let the Pistons make 12 3-pointers following a four-game span in which they gave up 5.0 per game from beyond the arc.
Toronto hasn’t won three consecutive games since a six-game run Dec. 12-21.
Since shooting 18.2 percent from 3-point range in the final four of a seven-game skid, the Pacers turned things around Sunday by shooting a season-high 51.8 percent and hitting 8 of 20 from 3-point range in a 106-99 win at Orlando.
“It’s been a tough year for all of us, and this isn’t any more than one game,” said coach Frank Vogel, whose club has yet to win back-to-back games this month. “But it certainly feels good, and it’s certainly good to see those guys out there having fun.”
David West led the way with 20 points, Damjan Rudez scored 18 with four 3-pointers and fellow reserve George Hill added 17. Hill, a starter last season, has totaled 30 points in two games since missing 11 with a groin injury.
C.J. Miles sat out Sunday with a groin injury and will likely be a game-time decision as Indiana opens a five-game stay seeking its 10th win in 12 home meetings with Toronto.
The Raptors averaged 90.2 points — 17.4 less than their season mark — and shot 39.6 percent over a five-game stretch before finishing with a 53.1 field-goal percentage versus Detroit en route to its highest point total in 12 games.
Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double in four games. He pulled down 14 rebounds to help the Raptors own a 52-39 advantage on the boards in the first meeting with Indiana.