The Indiana Pacers saw a pair of first half deficits thanks to some poor offense, fueled by missed shots and turnovers, giving life to the Brooklyn Nets, who held an early 22-21 lead in the second quarter. C.J. Watson hit three free throws to put Indiana in the lead, and while Brooklyn threatened in the second quarter, Indiana never relinquished their lead. The Pacers shot just 38% in the first half, and despite spirited play from Lance Stephenson and steady shooting from David West, Indiana looked like the team on a second night of a back-to-back.
Fortunately, while the offense never quite took hold in the first half, the defense was on point, forcing Brooklyn to just 35% in the first half to hold a 45-39 advantage. Paul George opened up things in the third quarter with 10 points in the quarter as the Indiana offense took opened up, turning a six-point game into a 24-point late in the third quarter. The Pacers never looked back, wrapping up a 103-86 win in typical blowout fashion, moving the team to 23-5 on the year.
Indiana's starting wings were the catalysts to Indiana's success. Stephenson had 14 first half points to carry the load for the Pacers while Paul George scored 17 second half points to help close out the win. The two each scored 26 on the night, which marked a career high for Stephenson. Stephenson was active in the first half despite some semi-poor play, but given how Indiana's offense needed some time to find their footing, the fact he was able to turn positives on his play was just the little bit Indiana needed to not find themselves in a halftime hole.
Both filled up the stat sheet in addition to points. They each hit four three pointers with five assists and two steals apiece. Stephenson edge George in rebounds on a seven to six margin, but the two played exceptionally well off of each other throughout the night, a great game for what will hopefully be years ahead for the two 2010 draftees. The success of Stephenson in the first half was especially important given Brooklyn's ability to keep Indiana out of the paint in the first half.
Indiana had just eight first half points in the paint, including blanking Roy Hibbert entirely offensively. Hibbert found his footing in the second half as he and Ian Mahinmi bullied their way inside, scoring a combined 15 on the night, with Hibbert scoring eight and Mahinmi putting in seven. Mahinmi's play recently the past four games has been nothing short of a revelation. He helped minimize the loss of Hibbert against Miami, but has since turned into an offensive focus, going 3-5, even recording four steals on the night.
West's reliability was on display as he shot over a woeful Kevin Garnett for 13 points on 6-8 shooting. Garnett wasn't the only former Celtic who struggled tonight, as Paul Pierce was held to 0-7 shooting before getting ejected on a Flagrant 2 foul on George Hill late in the third quarter. Hill got beat up throughout the game, not only on the flagrant, but also taking a hand to the eye, still fighting through as the fourth Pacer in double figures with 10.
Watson led Indiana off the bench with eight points, his activity in the first half was one of their key offensive factors towards the victory. It helped make up for Danny Granger's own 0-7 night. Granger went scoreless, looking clearly out of game shape on the second night of a back-to-back. His defense on Pierce was solid, however, and Indiana's defense as a whole was spot on, holding Brooklyn under 90 points and under 40%. Indiana's turnovers in the first half were a big part of their struggles, but while they finished with 18, they minimized their own mistakes, by forcing 18 off of Brooklyn for 24 points, including 12 steals on the night.
The Pacers will have a chance to spend the holidays with their family and loved ones as they will head home with a long layoff, not playing against until Saturday night, when they host these very same Brooklyn Nets in the second of their two game series. The Nets will actually play two games before they travel to Indianapolis, including a Christmas Day matchup against Chicago. So enjoy the win and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!