Like in all things, evolution is a gradual process. It’s no different when it comes to the NBA.

Good teams don’t become great overnight, nor do bottom dwellers suddenly morph into quality squads.

Ever since Chris Bosh left and a rebuild began, Toronto has been unable to go from lottery bad to decent. Until now that is, as it appears the first notch of the ladder has finally been ascended.

There’s no shame in losing to the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers — but beating them? Now that’s impressive.

Toronto stunned NBA-leading Indiana 95-82 at the ACC Wednesday, winning for the eighth time in 10 games and ninth in 12 outings since the trade of Rudy Gay.

At 25-6 Indiana is a team that beats most opponents and is a legitimate title contender, but Toronto never buckled after blowing a hard-fought first-quarter advantage and continued to torch opponents in the final quarters of games.

Kyle Lowry, coming off one of the finest months of his NBA career, was dominant with 13 points, 14 assists, a single turnover and some gutsy defending. Lowry fouled out big Roy Hibbert, nearly a foot-and-a-half and a hundred pounds heavier than him, by taking a charge late in the fourth. “You see who’s coming, I’ll tell you that much. You just sacrifice yourself for the benefit of the team and that’s what we’re all doing out here,” Lowry explained when it was over.

“Everybody’s sacrificing themselves and their game to be a better team.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 26 — 10 in the fourth, as the Raptors moved to .500 for the first time this late in a season since 2009-10.

These Raptors appear to be a laughingstock no longer. They fight hard, make life difficult for opponents defensively and play an effective brand of offence that is pleasing to the eye. They also execute down the stretch, operating as one of the NBA’s best squads in the final quarters of games.

“We don’t care who is out there in front of us, we understand that they are going to throw a punch and we’re going to throw punches back,” DeRozan said.

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, who took his franchise from a sad-sack to a contender, knows progress when he sees it, and believes Toronto has made a jump for the better.

“You have to give Coach Casey credit, he’s a great coach,” Vogel said.

“He’s doing a great job with this team, they’ve turned the corner.”

It’s no secret that victories in Dallas and Oklahoma City gave the Raptors a belief in themselves that didn’t exist before. Vogel’s seen that before as well.

“There’s no question. You win in Dallas and win at Oklahoma City in particular, those are like springboard games,” he said.

“There’s a residual effect that carries with you over the next period of games, next stretch of games. You just play with more confidence, more togetherness, and that’s what they’re going through right now.”

Casey agreed, but said the upcoming stretch of games against Indiana and Miami (sandwiched between a date with likely playoff-bound Washington) would be the next big tests of just where the team now stands.

“We’re playing with confidence now. We’ll find out how far we need to go or if we’re there already,” Casey said.

“This is a good measuring stick for us.”

One the team met with flying quarters in front of what Lowry called the best ACC crowd he’s seen since opening night last season.