Dinner’s on Darko — Raptors clinch long-awaited reward with win vs. Pacers

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By jeenmediaa

Toronto Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic promised his players a tasty reward when they finally strung together a three-game winning streak.

Now it’s time to pay up.

With All-Star Scottie Barnes logging his fourth triple-double of the season and RJ Barrett scoring 24 points in Thursday night’s 130-122 victory over the Indiana Pacers, players responded to their longest winning streak of the season by chanting “pizza.”

“I told them that when we won three straight I’d take them to dinner,” Rajakovic explained outside a joyous locker room. “But I told them this team’s so humble, we could have pizza.”

Whatever the meal preference, this young team again looked hungry — extending its post-All-Star break record to 3-0.

And it came with a pretty typical menu, too.

Barnes had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists on a night seven Raptors scored in double figures. Rookie Gradey Dick had 18 points and made two key 3s late to break open the game while matching his season high with four 3s.

“This is just the beginning,” Rajakovic said, referring to Dick. “He’s going to have good games, he’s going to have bad games, but he needs to continue winning in those situations, continue to learn and get better.”

Bennedict Mathurin kept the Pacers within reach by matching his career high with 34 points and nine rebounds. Two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam tormented his former team with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Indiana acquired Siakam in a January trade.

But with the league’s best shooting team and All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton having an off-night, the Pacers struggled. Haliburton had nine points and seven assists while going 2-of-11 from the field. The Pacers shot just 46% as a team.

Toronto built a 61-56 lead after a back-and-forth first half, and then watched Indiana score six straight in the third quarter to make it 67-66.

The Raptors answered with an 11-0 run, only to see the Pacers charge back within 90-87 at the end of three, tie it on Mathurin’s 3 to open the fourth and eventually take a 96-95 lead on Jalen Smith‘s putback with 10:04 to go.

Instead of pulling away, Indiana let Toronto hang around, and Dick’s tie-breaking 3 with 8:01 left spurred a 10-2 run that gave the Raptors a 112-104 lead that Indiana never seriously challenged again.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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