INDIANAPOLIS – Rudy Gay is making a difference in Toronto, and the Raptors couldn't be happier with their newest player.
Gay rediscovered his shooting touch in time to score 17 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime Friday night. He hit a 17-foot jumper with 1.7 seconds left in the extra period to send the Raptors past the Indiana Pacers 100-98.
"He definitely gives our team a lift. He's a closer, you know?" forward Amir Johnson said. "That's something we've been missing."
A week ago, Gay was in Memphis waiting to find out whether he would be traded.
Since arriving in Toronto, he's scored 20 or more points in all four games.
The win ended the Raptors' three-game losing streak and made them the first team to beat the Pacers on their home court twice this season.
Gay almost single-handedly rally Toronto (18-32) by making big play after big play — even when he wasn't making shots.
During the final sequence of regulation, it was Gay's missed layup that eventually led to Johnson's tip-in to make it 90-88 with 6.2 seconds left. And when it looked as though the Pacers had the game sealed, Gay stole a bad inbounds pass from David West that led to Johnson's buzzer-beating tip-in, which stood up following a replay review and forced the already weary Pacers to play an extra 5 minutes.
It was enough to push the Pacers over the edge.
DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points for Toronto, and Johnson finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. But it was Gay who made all the right plays late.
"I like to think I make it easy for everybody, a lot more open shots for people," he said. "The Raptors have been playing great since I've been here, and we've been playing well with each other. You know, I just want to be in at the end of games where I can give the team a chance to win."
For the Pacers (31-20), it was a surprising end to a marvelous run.
Coming into the game, Indiana had won five straight, including three in three nights earlier this week. It had won 15 in a row at home, its longest streak since 1999-2000, beating Miami twice, New York, Chicago and Memphis along the way.
Yet coach Frank Vogel was understandably concerned about the fatigue factor as the Pacers played their fourth game in five nights, and eventually Central Division-leading Indiana ran out of steam.
West finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and five turnovers. All-Star forward Paul George had 26 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. The only other player to score in double figures was Lance Stephenson with 11, and it was clear over the final 17 minutes that the Pacers were gassed.
They opened the fourth quarter by missing their first eight shots and going 1 for 11, blowing a 72-64 lead, and they couldn't get Gay stopped or keep Johnson off the glass in the closing seconds.
"We're pretty fatigued. I felt like today was the toughest day of this whole stretch, even through the back-to-back-to-back," George said. "I just think it set in before the game."
Indiana still had chances.
It led 90-86 with 10.7 seconds left in regulation and inexplicably gave up two baskets without even forcing Toronto to foul.
In overtime, George Hill had a chance to give Indiana the lead from the free throw line but missed the second of two shots with 90 seconds left, leaving the game tied at 98. After West rebounded a missed shot with 1:08 to go, he turned it over. With the game still tied at 98, Hill lost the ball out of bounds off his leg with 10.7 seconds left.
That gave Gay a chance to break the tie with his jumper, which he did, and George had a good look at a 15-foot runner that rimmed out as time expired.
"We understood that after winning three in a row in three nights that we weren't out of the clear," Vogel said. "Sometimes, weird things happen at the end of games."
Gay's presence was hardly a surprise, though.
Before the game, Vogel talked about the difference he had noticed in Gay's play since the trade, and then he got to see it firsthand over those final 17 minutes.
"He gives you that. That's a guy that, no disrespect to anyone else we have, that can go one-on-one and finish a play. He's done it throughout his career. He got it for us," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "He has struggled, fought through a lot of frustration and again like I told him, we've got to fight through things, nothing's going to be easy."
NOTES: The Raptors lead the season series 2-1, with the road team winning all three games. All three games also have been decided by two points. ... The Pacers played without forward Sam Young, who had the flu. ... Andrea Bargnani came off the bench for the second time this week and finished with 14 points in 29 minutes for Toronto. He had started 245 consecutive games before Wednesday but is trying to work his way back after missing 26 games with a torn ligament in his right elbow and a strained right wrist. ... Indiana hadn't lost at home since Dec. 7 and hadn't given up 100 points at home since Nov. 23.