Raptors rout Pacers after long game delay due to fire at Scotiabank Arena

Precious Achiuwa spent much of the 70-minute fire delay changing shirts and repeating her pre-match stretching routine – again.

Some players were listening to music. Others had their ankles reattached. Still others watched the Brooklyn-Miami NBA game that was on locker room TVs.

On one of the strangest nights in Raptors history, Toronto crushed the Indiana Pacers 131-91 after a speaker fire at Scotiabank Arena suspended play for over an hour and saw the fans evacuated for the rest of the game.

“Just add it to the list [of weird games]”said coach Nick Nurse.

Bizarre, but important in the Raptors’ quest for a playoff spot.

WATCH | Raptors and Pacers game suspended due to fire:

Fans forced to evacuate Raptors-Pacers game due to fire, play suspended

Scotiabank Arena spectators were forced out of the building after a loudspeaker caught fire. The game was late in the 2nd quarter when the call was made. 0:57

Pascal Siakam led the way with 23 points for Toronto (42-32), which passed Cleveland for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Scottie Barnes had 19 points, Achiuwa added 18, OG Anunoby finished with 16, Chris Boucher scored 15 and Thaddeus Young had 11.

The Raptors led 66-38 when the game was suspended with 4:05 left in the first half. The fans were evacuated, the teams headed to the locker rooms, and after the Toronto Fire Department deemed it safe to continue, the players did a 10-minute warm-up and the game resumed.

“During the game I looked up and that whole section was cleared and I was trying to figure out why or what happened or I was like geez I wonder why they didn’t sell these seats,” Nurse said with a laugh. “Then I saw the firefighters standing there.”

The nurse spent the break in the living room watching a live TV feed from the arena where two firefighters, suspended from the ceiling in harnesses, were putting out the small fire.

Play was suspended between the Toronto Raptors and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday as firefighters in the background first evacuated a section of fans from their seats after it was reported that a loudspeaker had taken fire during first half NBA action in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

“I don’t think I’ve been in a game like this in my entire life where we had to go to the locker room, come back,” Achiuwa said. “It was crazy. I’ve never been in a match like this.”

Fred VanVleet, who is suffering from a knee injury, did not return after the long break from play.

Former Raptor and Toronto native Oshae Brissett led the Pacers (25-50) with 21 points, while Justin Anderson finished with 18.

With just eight games left in the regular season and the Raptors battling for a playoff berth, finishing the game after the fire delay was crucial for Toronto.

WATCH | Raptors rout Pacers after delay:

Raptors ride to win over Pacers after long delay

Fans were forced to evacuate Scotiabank Arena minutes before half-time due to a small fire. Both teams resumed play to an empty hall more than an hour later, where Toronto came away with a 131-91 victory. 0:52

The Raptors have already clinched at least one play-in spot, but would prefer a top-six spot in the Eastern Conference to avoid that long road to the playoffs. Chicago’s victory saw the Raptors take possession of sixth place, one game ahead of Cleveland.

Indiana has been knocked out of the playoffs before, and while the Raptors have lost plenty of games to bad teams this season, their 20-point first-quarter lead on Saturday was a strong hint that wasn’t going to happen.

The Raptors led by 29 points in the second quarter and took that to 35 points when Boucher hit a three-pointer with 7:07 remaining. Nurse sank deep into his bench to play the rest of the rout.

Armoni Brooks, who scored six points just hours after signing a multi-year contract with Toronto, said the restart after the fire had been difficult.

“That’s why in the locker room we had the Heat game on TV, just so we were always locked in the basketball,” Brooks said. “We also circulated some of our films there so we could just stay locked in what we needed to do.”

Raptors used to play in an empty arena

The empty arena was a backdrop the Raptors knew all too well, having played several weeks earlier this season in front of no fans after the latest wave of COVID-19 in the fall saw strict crowd restrictions in Ontario.

“Yes, let’s not invent any more ways to empty the building,” Nurse said, banging on the wooden table. “It’s never a good thing, it’s never good news when they empty the building.”

The first sign that something was wrong was when fans noticed smoke at the east end of the arena. The video showed a loudspeaker in flames. One section was evacuated, then another, as firefighters stood in the empty section and stared at the ceiling.

A timeout was finally called and Toronto Fire Services met PA announcer Herbie Kuhn who asked fans to evacuate which was met with boos from the crowd of 19,800 .

The Raptors said all tickets would be refunded to the point of purchase within 30 days.

“The necessary repairs to the venue will be completed in time to allow the Toronto Maple Leafs game to go ahead as scheduled Sunday at 7 p.m. against the Florida Panthers,” said Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd. in a press release.

The Raptors pounced on the Pacers early Saturday, despite scoring 11 points in the first nine minutes from Brissett, who had many friends and family in the crowd.

“I got a whole bunch of text messages from friends, family. They were really angry [about the evacuation]”, Brissett said. “It was good that they came out in support and watched what they could see.”

Siakam and Anunoby combined for 21 first-quarter points for the Raptors, who shot 68% in frame. The Raptors finished the quarter with a 13-0 run to lead 41-21 to start the second, and the rout was on.

The Pacers couldn’t close the gap to less than 19 points before halftime. The teams played the final four minutes of the first half and then broke for the shortened half by 7.5 minutes, with Toronto comfortably ahead 74-46.

The Raptors play all but two — Orlando and New York — of their last home games. They host Boston on Monday and Minnesota on Wednesday.

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