USA TODAY Sports
The Pacers beat Cleveland 96-81 to return to .500 on the season.
It seemed hard to believe the Cleveland Cavaliers would keep up the torrid pace they were on when they scored 58 points in the first half, and some of that wall began to crumble when they stumbled to the final four of those 58 in the last quarter of the second quarter. The Pacers were blindsided by C.J. Miles and the hot shooting Cavs, who jumped all over the Pacers in the second for a 16-point lead.
But despite scoring 29 points in each of the first two quarters, the Pacers were able to step up defensively on the tiring Cavaliers, holding them to just 23 points in the final 24 minutes. The 18-0 run the Pacers used to end the second and to open the third really put all of the momentum in Indiana's favor, and did a great job holding it, creating an enjoyable second half of ball, this despite the injury of Lance Stephenson, who sprained his ankle on a drive early in the third quarter.
The injury didn't have a huge impact on the outcome of tonight's game, but the current doubt of Stephenson in future games could create some problems for the Pacers. Stephenson was playing a solid game tonight, with nine first half points, being one of the team's early answers to the scorching Miles, even though his inability to fight through screens allowed Miles to get those shots. Frank Vogel said after the game that the spot could lean towards Gerald Green if Stephenson is in fact set to miss games.
Forcing Green back into the starting lineup, where he struggled at the beginning of the year, leaves the already iffy bench without another body, even though Green had a poor night, scoring two points on 1-8 shooting. The bench as a whole saw a lot more energy thanks to the inclusion of Ben Hansbrough, getting minutes ahead of D.J. Augustin. Even with the energy, the play of the bench wasn't elevated much, but Ben made some nice hustle plays to save possessions for the Pacers, scoring six points with two steals. Tyler Hansbrough appeared to be far more involved being on the court with his younger brother, scoring seven, and even coming to Ben's aid when Tristan Thompson's elbow found its way to Ben's head.
The heavy lifting was done by the starters again, but it didn't feel like the bench was being a detriment, as long as you don't count the second quarter run the Cavs used to jump out to 16. Paul George was a big part of the game early and often, scoring 27 points, with early points coming via fast break, where the Pacers got out and ran, outscoring Cleveland 24-6 in fast break points. George continues to play at a high and consistent level on a smooth 10-18 shooting.
David West had 18 and 9 packing in seven assists while playing the teacher to rookie Tyler Zeller. George Hill found his way to 17 despite being just 5-16 from the floor with some nice play late. Roy Hibbert struggled shooting again tonight, as the "it's got to come around eventually..." sentiment is reaching perplexing heights looking at the shots he was missing tonight. But credit still goes to Hibbert for making plays and being a key on the defensive end of the floor despite his eternal offensive struggles.
The Pacers will await further word on Stephenson as they prepare to host the Philadelphia 76ers, who sit at 12-10, on Friday night.
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