The Indiana Pacers' defense in the fourth quarter really turned a toss-up game into a doubtless victory when they held the Detroit Pistons scoreless across the middle six minutes of the final quarter. The Pacers were not only able to piece together a winning defensive effort in Winning Time, but got some key offensive plays, from David West in particular, that would lead the Pacers to their first three-game winning streak of the year.
David West had 23, scoring 13 of those in the fourth quarter, making his last six shots in the last five minutes of the game. West's explosion late was bigger than it will get credit for the lead the Pacers held, but West never let the Pistons, who responded to their fourth quarter drought with 11 quick points in the final three minutes, close within single digits.
West's second half, where he scored 19 points, was huge when the Pacers lost Roy Hibbert to a bruised thigh just before the half after a run-in with Pistons big man Greg Monroe's knee. Hibbert wouldn't return, but Jeff Pendergraph picked up the extra minutes, making an immediate impact with the starting lineup right out of the half, a block, a three rebounds, and an assist in his short eight minutes helping lend the Pacers some much needed help.
Tyler Hansbrough led the way for the bench tonight with 11 & 6, playing with a sense of purpose tonight with his battle against the Pistons front line. Hansbrough had another solid shooting night, going 5-8, including a couple of jumpers to his resume. The loss of Hibbert, who had four blocks, was made up by decent minutes from Pendergraph and Ian Mahinmi, but minus Hibbert, the team had some rebounding issues. While winning the battle, they had just five offensive boards, while giving up 11 to Detroit.
George Hill had a solid 18 points and seven assists on 5-7 shooting. Eight Pacers tallied an assist, as the ball movement gave Indiana 25 assists on their 35 field goals. Paul George struggled shooting from deep, but made continuous impact on other aspects of the game, finishing with 15 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. Gerald Green had nine on three three pointers, but eight of his nine attempts came from behind the arc. It would be nice to see Green attack the rim more instead of focusing so heavily on his three point game.
Ben Hansbrough continues to bring an upgrade of energy over D.J. Augustin, but in losing a lot of size to Rodney Stuckey in the first half, allowed a stretch of points to Stuckey. As fresh as Hansbrough has been, the Pacers are hopefully still looking for a more permanent upgrade in the PG position. The Pacers struggled with poor turnovers at stretches in tonight's game, ending up with 14, but were able to limit the detriment of them by forcing a handful in key situations.
Indiana will hopefully be able to limit time lost on the injury front with a couple of days off before they travel back to Milwaukee for a revenge match against the Bucks. The last meeting between the two teams led to an embarrassing 99-85 loss where Indiana couldn't even hang within 30 at halftime. The loss marked many of the current changes that have helped the Pacers since improve to 10-5 in the past month. The growth of the Pacers will be on display with Tuesday's game, especially if they can get good news from Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert.