INDIANAPOLIS - During the opening minutes of Tuesday night's Indiana Pacers matchup against the Toronto Raptors it appeared the Pacers were in for a long night.
But, with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter, guard Lance Stephenson dished the ball to center Roy Hibbert in the paint for an easy layup, and the ship seemed righted.
Hibbert scored a team-high 22 points and added three blocked shots and eight rebounds to lead the Pacers to an 86-79 victory over the Raptors in front of 16,147 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
"A really good win against a team that is playing as well as anybody in the NBA," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Our guys buckled down and had a great defensive performance."
The fourth-year coach coached pointed to the Pacers' 40-26 advantage in points in the paint as one of the keys to the win.
The Pacers are 17-1 at home and improved their overall record to 28-6, best in the NBA.
Stephenson and guard Danny Granger added 13 point apiece. Stephenson reached a double-double with 10 rebounds.
The Pacers overcame a poor shooting performance during the first minutes of the opening quarter, hitting on just two of their first nine shots. The Raptors on the other hand made 3-of-5 to start the game and jump out to a 7-0 lead.
Then, with Pacers star swingman Paul George sitting with two early fouls, Indiana went on an 18-4 run that was started by the Hibbert bucket. That helped Indiana take control of the game after the first quarter.
George's early exit allowed Granger to see 32 minutes of action, his most since returning to the Pacers' lineup from injury.
"I got going a little bit and made some plays," Granger said. "I feel comfortable playing with everyone."
Indiana shot 43.5 for the quarter, while Toronto was held to 30 percent over that span.
All of point guard George Hill's 11 points came in the first quarter.
"This team has guys that can make shots and just do so many things to where I can have nights when I am not scoring we still find ways to pull games out," George said. "It was a good collective win."
George was held to just 11 points in his nearly 28 minutes on the court. It was his second-lowest point total of the year.
The Raptors outscored the Pacers by eight points when George was on the floor.
Guard DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (16-17) with 28 points and six assists. DeRozan had 17 points in the third period.
"He did a good job of really attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of DeRozan. "I thought he did an outstanding job."
The first half ended on a bad note for the Raptors. Guard Kyle Lowry missed his third 3-point attempt with 27 seconds left in the second quarter, but Stephenson was whistled for a foul, sending Lowry to the free-throw line. With the chance to pull Toronto within three, the 81.3 percent free-throw shooter missed all three attempts.
"We missed some shots that we usually can make," Lowry said. "I think guys were just a little off from their rhythm."
The Pacers then did what they have done all season -- excel in the third quarter. Entering the game, Indiana had outscored its opponents by 185 points in the third.
The Pacers increased an eight-point halftime lead to 17 points in the final minute of the third quarter.
Toronto roared back in the fourth quarter to pull within six, but that was as close as it could get.
"We remembered these guys from a couple games ago," Pacers forward David West said of the Raptors. "We let that one get away. Tonight we made a point of protecting our home court."
NOTES: The Raptors did not arrive in Indianapolis until mid-afternoon Tuesday due to the winter storm that blanketed Indiana with snow. ... Toronto F Tyler Hansbrough, a former Pacer, was inactive Tuesday due to a sprained left ankle. ... On New Year's Day, the Raptors beat the Pacers 95-82, Indiana's lowest point total of the season. ... The Pacers began the night first in the NBA in opponent's scoring in the paint. They were allowing an average of 35 points, and they were 17-2 when holding the advantage on inside scoring. ... The Pacers shot a season-low 36.4 percent from the field in their Sunday win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. ... F Luis Scola came off the bench to lead Indiana in rebounding during three of the past six games before Tuesday.