April 20, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana Pacers starting center Ian Mahinmi is ready to fight back.

Two days after a sore back forced the 6-foot-11, 262-pound French native out of Monday night's loss at Toronto, Mahinmi told reporters he intends to play Thursday night in Game 3.

''It's that time of year. You always hope to be 100 percent, but it rarely happens,'' Mahinmi said after Wednesday's practice. ''It's one of those things where you just try to play through it.''

Back trouble has been a recurring theme for Mahinmi, who missed six of his 11 games during the regular season with the same injury.

But regardless of his health, Mahinmi has struggled in this first-round series.

Foul trouble limited him to a combined total of 39 minutes in the first two games. He has six points and eight rebounds in the series. Without Mahinmi's strong defense, the Pacers have been unable to slow down Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who has back-to-back double-doubles and is averaging 17.0 rebounds.

The series is tied 1-1 as it shifts to Indianapolis for Games 3 and 4, and the Pacers remain hopeful that Mahinmi will be part of the solution to Toronto's strong inside game.

''We're hopeful Ian plays. If he doesn't we'll adjust,'' coach Frank Vogel said. ''You just try to put it (the injury) out of your mind.''

Vogel would not say who would move into the starting lineup if Mahinmi can't go.

All-Star Paul George joked Wednesday that he was practicing at the No. 5 spot, and Myles Turner, the 7-foot rookie who had 10 points, five rebounds and five blocks in a Game 1 victory, said he will be ready to play extended minutes if needed.

But the Pacers understand their defensive problems are not exclusively the result of Mahinmi's injury or foul trouble, and that it will take a group effort to take control of this series on their home court.

''We've got to do a better job of helping our guys down there (in the post),'' George said.

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