Pacers, Raptors tangle north of the border

( - Two division leaders in the Eastern Conference square off Friday night when the Indiana Pacers visit Air Canada Centre to take on the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers wrapped up the Central Division title, but have fallen into a virtual tie with the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. Indiana has lost three of its last four and six of the last nine. The Heat host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday as well.

The Raptors lead the Atlantic Division by 2 1/2 games over the Brooklyn Nets. Toronto has clinched its first postseason berth since the 2007-08 season, but is tied with the Chicago Bulls for third place in the East.

Indiana put much-needed brakes on a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a 101-94 home win over the Detroit Pistons. The Pacers have lost five straight on the road.

"We took a step in the right direction. We know it's not going to just snap back into place when you're out of rhythm the way we've been the last couple of weeks," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "It was definitely a positive step on the offensive end with how we shared the basketball and took care of the basketball."

The Pacers registered 24 assists on 39 made field goals. Indiana is 35-4 on the season when handing out 20 or more assists in a game.

Paul George led the way for Indiana with 27 points and 13 rebounds against the Pistons. David West added 15 points, followed by 12 from George Hill, 11 apiece from Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert and 10 out of Ian Mahinmi.

The Pacers have a rough schedule remaining. With six games left including Friday, the Pacers still have to visit the Heat and host the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Toronto held off the Houston Rockets on Wednesday to win for the fourth time in five outings.

DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 29 points and the Raptors fended off a Rockets rally to down Houston, 107-103.

Toronto saw a 20-point lead in the second half dwindle to one midway through the fourth quarter, but did just enough down the stretch to upend the Rockets for a seventh straight time at Air Canada Centre.

Greivis Vasquez, who started in place of an injured Kyle Lowry, made four of Toronto's 10 3-pointers and finished with 15 points, as did Jonas Valanciunas.

Lowry missed the game with a knee injury, but head coach Dwane Casey said before the game that there was no structural damage to his knee. Starting power forward Amir Johnson played less than three minutes before exiting with an ankle injury.

"Every win is great for us right now for what we're trying to do, especially with Kyle out and Amir out," said Casey. "Hopefully it gives our guys some confidence. . . guys who stepped in, to go where we need to go."

The Pacers won two of three meetings this season against the Raptors, and have taken four of their last five north of the border.