This Indiana Pacers team has quickly become accustomed to winning by the skin of their teeth, living from play to play, and making every game a tough pill to swallow. It became a little easier to swallow tonight when the Pacers finally, mercifully even, were able to close out the Sacramento Kings in the second overtime period 106-98. But to be 2-1, by any means necessary even, has been a way of life in the NBA in its first week, where Boston needed everything to grab their first win of the season tonight, and Miami coming close themselves to falling to 1-2, closing out a now 0-3 Denver team.
So despite the struggles, the Pacers are still on the right side of .500, if only for now with the way they've been playing compared to the level of competition they'll be facing this upcoming week. Even then, there's a not-so-secret belief that simply cleaning up turnovers could put the Pacers in better position by itself, and the short stretches of success in that area in the fourth quarter against Toronto and to close the second quarter against the Kings tonight, do nothing but reinforce that belief.
The turnovers ballooned all the way up to 24 tonight, breaking the previous season highs of 19 & 19, slightly skewed for the overtime periods, not that they needed the overtimes to reach that mark. The frustrating fact is just the overwhelming amount of these turnovers that are unforced. While the Pacers have been easily flustered by just about everything defenses throw at them, they're not doing themselves any favors by forcing issues that aren't there.
Paul George and Sam Young led the Pacers with four each, making it a collective effort of ball control futility, giving the Kings a 14-point advantage in points off turnovers, a point difference that nearly bit the Pacers for another loss. George was a key part of the Pacers success tonight, scoring 16 points, grabbing a season high 17 rebounds, but making some important plays on defense, four blocks and three steals being tangible proof of that.
David West was once again the Pacers work horse late, getting some key baskets to keep the Pacers in position to not lose to an explosive Marcus Thornton of the Kings. West finished the game with 18 points and 18 rebounds, and simply from a +/- standpoint, was one of the two most important players on the team tonight.
The most important? Lance Stephenson. Lance was a huge pick-me-up off the bench, once again earning minutes from Young, but also getting reps with the starters in Gerald Green's spot late. Stephenson hit a three pointer in the first overtime as part of his 10 point night, but an active Stephenson was huge for the Pacers in their first half run to move their lead to a somewhat comfortable 14 points.
While Green was sat in favor of Stephenson, he still posted a much better game tonight than he did in last night's loss. Green scored 17 on 6-9 shooting, really shining in his play with the second unit. George Hill played well again tonight, hitting 18 points, to go with eight boards and five assists. Hill fell two rebounds shy of being one of four Pacers to hit a double double, as Roy Hibbert tacked on 12 & 10 for his night. Hibbert was mostly taken out of the game on the offensive end, but stuck with the rebounds and was a key on the defensive end, blocking six shots.
It was ugly, but it was a win. The good news is the Pacers are now 2-1, the not-so-good news depending on your angle is that they head on the road to face the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. There are a lot of things the Pacers need to do right to feel like they can even make it a game against San Antonio, but it begins on the offensive end, and it begins with ball control.
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