In many ways, this was Indiana's best showcase of the season, an offensive exhibition that is unlike anything the Pacers have had to date, scoring a season high 111 points on the league's best team in FG% and points allowed. Indiana shot 56% from the field, closed quarters with authority on both ends, and got production from everyone who stepped on the floor.
The Pacers ran away from the 76ers in the fourth quarter, but until then, the play between the two teams showcased just how evenly matched they were. Philadelphia led the way early with hot shooting, but Roy Hibbert and David West kept the Pacers within striking distance, enough for George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, and the Pacers bench to push Indiana into the lead late in the second quarter.
While the game was defined offensively, there was considerable effort being given on the defensive side from both teams. It was simply a game defined by offense. The Pacers were really able to play strong late in quarters to help define the game. Play at the end of quarters and being able to close them with authority is a trait elite teams can define their success with, and it was Indiana who made the most of their play late.
In fact, Indiana finished each of the first three quarters off with the final points. Their ability to stifle the Sixers offense in those stretches was huge, and considerable credit deserves to be given to the Pacers backcourt tandem of Hill and A.J. Price. Both teams played close, with neither being able to push the game into double digits, but a 9-0 Pacers run heading into the fourth helped the blue and gold pull away and essentially ice the game.
Hill's contributions were the exact thing Indiana had been missing in their losses to quality teams, the ability to hit timely baskets. Hill, along with Hansbrough, Danny Granger, and West had all of the answers offensively tonight and it resulted in a huge win in front of a national audience, the Pacers' first against a winning opponent since they beat Dallas on February 3rd.
After the jump, more on another great team victory:
- George Hill gets a ton of credit for being a huge difference maker again tonight, putting the Indiana second unit on his back, scoring 17 points on 7-10 shooting, grabbing 7 boards, and dishing 4 assists. How far Hill has come in his ability to control the offense is quite impressive, and it's a move that seems to work extremely well for A.J. Price, who was freed up to put his efforts in on the defensive end, having a solid night.
- Tyler Hansbrough and David West led a Pacers front line that shot 67.5% combined, bullying a small Philly front line for easy baskets that found their way in. Lou Amundson was smooth with his jumper (yes, jumper), and Roy Hibbert dropped 14 points on 6 FGA. The big fella followed the point total with 9 boards and a team high 5 assists.
- Danny Granger was keyed in tonight with a team high 20 points on 8-13 shooting, a welcome sign against noted defensive specialist Andre Iguodala. Granger spent the night scrambling away from Iggy, and had a tremendous night shooting the basketball. The Pacers really benefited from Granger's high level of play, and he not only played like a leader, but shot like one as well.
While tonight's nationally televised game was backseat even as it was airing to all of the drama happening around the league, Indiana simply went in and took care of business against a team they had to show they were capable of beating. Philly's defense is well worth the numbers it has accumulated, but Indiana just couldn't miss.
The Pacers will enjoy their day off before squaring off in a home and home series against the dysfunctional New York Knicks this weekend. While New York will certainly grab all of the headlines for these back-to-back games, the Pacers will surely be content grabbing the W's.