What a difference a dominant center makes.
The Indiana Pacers look to regroup following a loss when they get center Roy Hibbert back Friday against the Toronto Raptors up north at Air Canada Centre.
Hibbert was suspended for Thursday's 99-91 loss versus the Los Angeles Clippers for his involvement in a melee with the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. Hibbert got into a shoving match with Warriors All-Star center David Lee late in the fourth quarter and several other players stepped in.
Ian Mahinmi made his first start of the season in place of Hibbert and posted five points, five rebounds and two blocks. David West led five players in double figures with 22 points and All-Star Paul George recorded 20 points for the Pacers, who had won five straight and 10 of 12 games.
"Roy Hibbert makes a big difference on our team. Everybody wants to talk about he's having a terrible year. I think he's having a great year," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He's leading the number one defense in the NBA and we missed him tonight."
The Pacers are second in the NBA in defense, allowing 89.7 ppg, and will face a Toronto team tonight that posts 97.1 ppg.
With Hibbert out, the Clippers scored 50 points in the paint and Los Angeles All-Star guard Chris Paul came up with two big baskets inside. Lance Stephenson made all but one of his eight shots for 16 points for Indiana, which is even with New York for second in the East standings.
"The Clippers played an excellent basketball game. They took us out of a lot of our stuff with their pressure. We got to play good basketball to beat a team like that and we didn't," Vogel said.
Danny Granger, in his third game back after missing the start of the season with a balky knee, contributed 12 points, two boards and an assist. Granger had to visit the hospital Wednesday to have an injured middle finger on his right hand drained because of an infection.
Toronto has dropped two in a row and three of its last four games since winning five straight. In a 103-92 loss at Cleveland on Wednesday, the Cavs made just one of their first 15 shots and managed to hold on despite not having All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
Cavs rookie Dion Waiters hit a big shot with less than two minutes to go and the Raptors never threatened again. DeMar DeRozan had 34 points and Rudy Gay added 24 for Toronto, which shot 44.9 percent and made only 2-of-20 3- pointers. The Cavs scored 20 points off 15 Toronto turnovers.
Toronto guard Sebastian Telfair, acquired by Toronto from Phoenix at last week's trade deadline, made his debut and went scoreless in seven minutes.
Meanwhile, Gay was asked what will get the Raptors out of their funk.
"Winning. Winning fixes everything," Gay said. "It's still new to me, for me. That's why I get so frustrated when things happen out there. You know everything's still new to me. I'm still trying to figure things out. It's not easy. It's definitely not easy losing. I'm not here to lose and I don't think anybody else is here to lose. We're going to try and play our hardest to try to this thing around."
Gay, of course, is in his new digs since a trade from Memphis and is averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 12 games with Toronto.
After hosting the Pacers, the Raptors, who are 15-15 up north, will play four straight on the road against the Bucks, Warriors, Suns and Lakers.