The new found, offensive oriented Indiana Pacers made another statement tonight, snowballing a quick start into a game high 43-point lead against the Detroit Pistons en route to a 32-point win, the team's third straight overall. Even with such a heavy reliance on a focused offensive attack (they shot 56% from the field, made 10 three pointers, and assisted on 29 of their 41 baskets), it's still their defense leading their success and tonight was no different. The Pacers held Detroit to 35% shooting on the night, a number that got astronomically high after some fourth quarter bench clearing success by the Pistons.
Just think about that for a second. The Pacers topped 110 for the fourth time this month, and have averaged 104 points in their 7-2 month, but it's still the defense that dictates their success. Before breaking out for a 30-point fourth quarter, Detroit was on pace to finish under 70 for the game. Indiana was able to really control the game on both ends of the floor, but their defense opened up transition opportunities that they (mostly) thrived in.
Indiana recorded 10 steals on 16 Pistons turnovers leading to 21 Pacers points. Moreover, Indiana had 20 fast break points (down slightly from the New York game), and 52 points in the paint. A lot of that success was bred early by Lance Stephenson, who was a nightmare in the transition game for the Pistons as he pushed the tempo and created opportunities for his teammates. Lance finished the night with 10, one of six Pacers to reach double figures, but with three steals and five rebounds really helped the flow of the game for Indiana.
A lot of the success the Pacers found against the Knicks on Wednesday was due to Paul George not only playing quality defense (something he also did tonight), but leading the Pacers with a scoring punch. So it is a great sign that Indiana led the game 21-9 before George seven and a half minutes into the first before George took his first field goal attempt, a made three pointer. George finished with 12, also grabbing seven rebounds.
One of the more interesting things about tonight's game was that Indiana played like a juggernaut, but did so with some less than focused play from Stephenson and George. While Lance was instrumental in bowling over the Pistons and taking them out of the game early, he wasn't shy of some really bad and boneheaded plays. Coaches were quick to remind Stephenson his mistakes, with a steal turned between the legs jumping pass that of course didn't turn out well forcing Frank Vogel to pull Lance aside and keep his play in check.
While Lance's leash is much shorter than someone like George's, Paul was guilty of slipping into some old habits tonight, turning the ball over seven times with a number of "cute" plays that George had fortunately gotten away from in his emergence this season. His mistakes were masked by Indiana's dominance and defense, but it certainly should be a sign that he not slip into those old habits.
The starters all shot 50% or better, with West finishing scoring a game high 18 and George Hill pitching in with 15, each playing vital roles to Indiana's success. Roy Hibbert had 10 points on the night, and it was his pair of big time dunks to open the game really set the tone of the game from the outset. Off the bench, the Pacers were led in the second quarter by Orlando Johnson, who scored a career high 14 points on 5-5 shooting with three three pointers and three assists to go along with it. Johnson's emergence as a valuable piece off the bench has been great to see, especially when looking for that exact punch in the second unit.
The win, coupled with New York's loss tonight to Toronto, moves Indiana into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. But it doesn't guarantee them the second seed, and tomorrow night's rematch against the Pistons will be a big factor in whether they can continue to move forward, or if they stumble after a dominating win. Despite all of the great things they did tonight with their tempo, defense, and great all-around play, a 32-point win will all become meaningless if they slip up and suffer a two-point loss in tomorrow night's game.