The Indiana Pacers returned to the floor for the first since Monday to wrap up their two game series with the Brooklyn Nets. While Indiana enjoyed a long Christmas layoff between Nets games, Brooklyn played a pair of games, including a win last night in Milwaukee. The rest seemed to work in Indiana's favor early, with the Pacers jumping out to a 16-8 advantage with under five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
But Brooklyn fought back and found an offensive groove behind their bench, eventually gaining the lead and going up 43-37 in the second quarter. While Indiana managed to hold a halftime advantage, they still allowed 56 first half points, a staggering mark for a defensive oriented Pacers team. Fortunately, offense wasn't an issue for Indiana, who made a push in the second half to stretch the lead and close the game out strong despite Brooklyn's effort. Indiana's defense made the stand in the second half to limit Brooklyn to just 35 second half points as they close out the 105-91 victory to complete the two game sweep and move to 24-5 on the season.
Tonight's game was largely carried by the starters, who had all five in double figures, scoring 89 points. Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 24 points on 9-13 shooting. His minutes were somewhat limited due to foul trouble, but George was in the zone from the get go, hitting his first six field goal attempts, and hitting three three pointers on the night. George's shooting was keyed in as part of Indiana's offensive explosion, but his ability to ratchet up his defense in the second half helped key in their second half defense, grabbing three steals.
Lance Stephenson was once again on triple-double watch as he attacked the Nets defense for 23 points on 7-11 shooting while bringing in nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Even more impressive was his ability to get to the free throw line and more impressive yet was his ability to hit free throws, going 8-8 from the line, playing up against his hometown team.
George Hill was the third Pacer to reach 20 points, scoring 21 points on 6-10 shooting. He also joined in on the assist game with four on a night the Pacers had great movement on offense, dishing 28 assists on 38 field goals. Hill's shooting was great, he hit three three pointers and went 6-7 from the line, but he did a great job limiting the effectiveness of Deron Williams on the other side, Williams had just 14 points.
Roy Hibbert and David West wrapped up the play of the starting five with 11 and 10 point nights, but they led the way for Indiana's own turnover struggles. The each had five as the Pacers had 17 turnovers on the night, which turned into 17 Brooklyn points. The Pacers were able to turn 13 Nets turnovers into 22 points, including 12 fast break points, but their struggles to hold onto the ball allowed the Nets to capitalize and stay in the game. West had seven rebounds as the Pacers dominated the glass 41-28.
Danny Granger led the bench with eight points, exactly half of the bench's scoring output, doing so on 3-9 shooting. Luis Scola and C.J. Watson each added in four points, and Ian Mahinmi's night was limited to the defensive side, where he took a shot in the paint, losing a tooth in the process. The Nets got big nights from Paul Pierce (18 points on 8-14 shooting) and Mirza Teletovic (17 on 7-13) to help keep them afloat in this one.
But Indiana showcased their strengths when it mattered to close out the win to move the season series against Brooklyn to 3-0. The Pacers offense really looked keyed in, as they reached the 100 point mark for the fourth straight game, shooting 53.5% on the night with eight three pointers and 21-25 from the line. They'll take the floor on New Year's Eve, with an early 3:00 Eastern tipoff at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It felt like a long layoff, but it's good to have Pacers basketball back in action.