It was nice to see the Indiana Pacers rebound with a convincing win after a woeful finish to their road trip, the officials admitting to a blown call in Denver to send them in a somewhat spiraling discourse of road disasters. Meanwhile, back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers entered their game against the Detroit Pistons having won 11 straight games, ultimately pushing the total to 12 after topping Detroit 98-79.
The Pacers led the entire way, but a pair of solid stretches from the Pistons, led by focused play in the paint, made the game more contested than Indiana would've likely cared for. While the Pacers improved defensively after sluggish play in the first and third, they were aided by a 12-27 free throw effort from Detroit, with their talented young bigs Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe going a combined 4-16. It doesn't hurt your defensive numbers when you're facing that.
The Pistons were well and alive with the ball in the second quarter trailing 36-34, but Lance Stephenson led the charge for the Pacers, closing the half on an 18-2 run. Detroit would climb within ten again in the third, but Indiana would quickly push the lead back to 17, effectively putting the game to rest. Stephenson played a superb game all around. He not only netted his first career double double (of the 12 & 11 variety), but he dished out five assists with zero turnovers. Infinity turnover ratio nights are always good, but the single play that really seemed like a definition of his night was one that didn't result in any numbers.
Stephenson, looking for an opening at the top of the arc, was kept contained as he dribbled around, the shot clock casually ticking away. Where every possession in the history of 2012-13 Indiana Pacers basketball has made a ticking five second shot clock Go-To-Work Time resulting in a long, mostly contested jumper, Stephenson continued to look for the play, actually finding Ian Mahinmi going towards the basket for a dunk. Mahinmi was fouled, missing the attempt, but it went to show just how far ahead Stephenson is capable of seeing the game, something no one else on this team clearly has anything resembling.
While Stephenson was the player of note, Roy Hibbert had a solid double double of his own, finishing with 18 & 11. Hibbert was effective around the basket and while he wasn't overly stout against Monroe and Drummond, he did play well enough to warrant an overall positive grade without being force fed attempts, going 7-14 on the night. Six Pacers reached double figures, including all five starters, George Hill's 15 on a sublime 6-8 shooting that can hopefully signaling a turnaround for some lackluster three point shooting, hitting 3-4 tonight and six of his last 10 overall.
Paul George had just 10, but the well rounded effort from the blue and gold really eased the necessity for him to force the issue, only shooting 11 shots. George had four assists as a positive, but six turnovers a negative. While more than one was a Ian Hands f/ Tyler special, but still has areas of his game to improve to not lose possessions for his team. David West rounded out the starters with an effective 14 & 5, including some nice passes for three assists.
For the bench, Tyler Hansbrough had the third of Indiana's three double doubles with 14 & 11, living at the free throw line, and playing some effective ball around the basket. Orlando Johnson and Ian Mahinmi each had some plays of note, an offensive board turned dunk for Ian, and six points on 2-2 shooting from OJ to round out a solid team effort in the Pacers return to the left column.
The win moves Indiana to 27-19 on the year, gives them their 12th straight at home, and avoids any unnecessary thoughts heading into Friday night's matchup against the Miami Heat. If you aren't heading down to the Fieldhouse, the game will be seen on ESPN, as the Pacers look to clinch the season series against the Heat.