Roy Hibbert might not like the phrase "slip past," but that's exactly what the Indiana Pacers did tonight in their exhaling win over the Utah Jazz. It was obvious from the outset the Jazz weren't resting on Monday's win against Houston and were looking for another statement after opening up 12-2. They maintained a healthy advantage throughout the first half, capitalizing on Indiana's defensive gambles and lapses. The Pacers looked really out of sync in the first half tonight. They did themselves no favors by trading baskets with the Jazz, and were down 11 points late in the second quarter before using a 14-4 run to close the half on a high note.
Luis Scola and Lance Stephenson led the way for the Pacers early with double digit first half efforts. Scola had 12 as part of a 14 point night, bringing in six rebounds. He really made the most of his minutes in the first half, working off of Stephenson as the Pacers aimed to turn the game in their favor in the second quarter. Stephenson had 13 of his 15 in the first half as well, really looking sharp on a majority of plays. A bit of a tougher second half for Stephenson led to an offensive/technical foul combo in the waning minutes as the Pacers were trying to close the game out.
In the third quarter, the Pacers began to step up defensively, but were still unable to build upon their lead once they gained it in the third quarter. They had a five point advantage late in the third quarter, but a 6-0 Utah run put them up a point a possession into the fourth. The Jazz really found success in their mid range game tonight, Enes Kanter had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and seemed to be putting on his best David West impression with some of his shots.
It's what helped the Jazz stay within striking distance in the fourth quarter as Indiana's offense began to find more of a rhythm, but all night, the Pacers were searching for a stretch where they could go on a nice run to build some breathing room between them and the increasingly confident Jazz. C.J. Watson sunk in his second three pointer in the quarter with just over six minutes remaining to spark a 9-0 Pacers run that gave Indiana an 88-76 advantage with three and a half minutes to go.
Watson's three pointers were a major spark for Indiana, who blanked throughout the game from deep. Paul George was the biggest culprit to poor three point shooting, pairing his spectacular showcase against Portland by missing his first seven three pointers in tonight's game. As a whole, it was part of a woeful shooting night for George, who got to 19 on a forgettable 7-20 shooting night. George's defense had some highlights in helping to hold Gordon Hayward to 3-14 shooting, no small feat for how Hayward has played in recent games.
The Pacers forced Utah into 14 turnovers, scoring 20 points off of those turnovers for a key advantage in points off turnovers. They also had 21 fast break points to help their cause even though they allowed a fairly staggering 14. Indiana thrived in the paint as well, winning 54-38, and after getting beat up on the glass to the tune of nine offensive rebounds early, Indiana allowed just two the rest of the game.
In the end, Indiana found themselves able to hold off the Jazz in the final minutes despite Stephenson's technical, which capped a 5-0 run that drew Utah within seven. The Pacers were able to pull out just enough to not only grab a win, but snap a lengthy six game losing streak in Salt Lake City. After the game, Hibbert and George each mentioned Utah's elevation as something the team had to overcome, especially for Hibbert and his asthma, and with little rest on their long road trip, it helps to explain why this game wasn't quite the cakewalk fans were hoping for.
Hibbert had 13 points and nine rebounds, managing to work efficiently with 6-9 shooting. David West struggled early, but started to pitch in big time with his jumper in the second half as part of his 10 point, eight assist effort. George Hill drilled a big jumper late in the shot clock in the fourth quarter to push the game back to nine as he scored 10. The team as a whole shot 47.6%, which is surprising not only given George's struggles, but the team's struggles early.
The final leg of Indiana's road trip kicks off Saturday night when they travel to San Antonio to face the Spurs. The Pacers have an even lengthier road losing streak to the Spurs, but the extra day shouldn't hurt in finding some extra energy necessary to finish off a lethal trip with a lethal back-to-back that wraps up Sunday in Oklahoma City. The Spurs will have had four days of no games after their game in Mexico City tonight was postponed due to a smoky conditions after a fire in Mexico City Arena.