The Indiana Pacers completed a season sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, but in addition to a big night from Shaun Livingston and five double figure Nets scorers, Indiana had to contend with their own miscues, nearly giving the away on 24 turnovers that led to 36 Brooklyn points. Turnovers were a problem all night, compounded by their inability to keep Brooklyn from taking advantage. The Pacers fought through another slow start, overcoming a seven point deficit to take the lead to close the first quarter.
Kevin Garnett put the Nets back on top to start the second quarter leaving the Pacers to spend another quarter playing catch-up thanks to more struggles from the bench unit. The Pacers went up 42-38 late in the quarter, but turnovers allowed the Nets to run off a 7-0 run to take a three point lead. Indiana responded with a 16-2 run into the third quarter to go up 58-47, but their turnovers allowed the Nets to come storming back, as they fought back to within a point with 2:40 remaining in the quarter.
It was rinse and repeat for the Pacers, who continued to threaten to blow the game open, but their turnovers continued to draw the Nets back into the game. Roy Hibbert made it an 89-83 lead with under four minutes remaining, but free throws and a Frank Vogel techincal foul allowed Deron Williams to slice the lead in half before the Pacers put the ball in David West's hands in an attempt to close it out.
West made a big shot to put Indiana up five with under a minute, but Williams responded to cut it to three as George Hill split his free throws to make it 94-90 with 18 seconds remaining. Joe Johnson hit a big three pointer to cut it to one. West hit both of his free throws and a Paul Pierce missed three pointer with four seconds left set up West to make it a two possessions game at the line. He hit the second of two free throws as Williams hit another big three for the Nets, putting them down a point with .4 seconds remaining.
Luis Scola would inbound the ball off of Pierce's back to end the game, wrapping up a 97-96 victory on a turnover that was much harder fought than it should have been thanks to the turnovers. George Hill knew as well as anyone in the Pacers locker room that Indiana got away with one, but these are the kinds of games good teams are supposed to come away with, and Indiana did just that, minimizing the damage of the turnovers as best they could thanks to 20 points off turnovers themselves and a dominating 46-27 rebounding advantage over the Nets.
Roy Hibbert led the way for the Pacers offensively with 20 points, his second straight 20-point effort, going 7-13 from the floor and 6-6 from the line. The Nets had no answer for Hibbert up front and he took advantage on both ends, grabbing five rebounds and sending away three blocks. Hibbert wasn't the only Pacer to have a good night from the line. In fact, the Pacers were much better from the line tonight, shooting 32-37, which is a welcome sight thanks to some of their recent free throw struggles.
The free throw shooting helped offset another poor three point shooting night for Indiana. Coming off a one three point night against Phoenix, the Pacers hit just three tonight on a 3-15 effort, two coming as part of their 16-2 run that pushed the game into double figures for the only time all night. Paul George had two of them as part of his 20-point effort, trying to break out of his own three point slump.
It's probably not an accident Indiana's three point shooting woes are coinciding with George's own issues, but it's difficult to win without three point shooting in a league where number of threes made often mean more than a poor percentage. The Nets shot just 30%, but at 7-23, still had four extra three pointers, and they came in handy down the stretch, something that could've played in Brooklyn's favor had they just a little more time.
Lance Stephenson had just four turnovers, but it felt like his carelessness with the ball summed Indiana's night as a whole, trying to lob alley oops where they were none and needling passes that Brooklyn set themselves up to take away. Besides that, Stephenson was solid in his "revenge" game against Joe Johnson, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds, helping limit Johnson's effectiveness on a 6-14 shooting night.
David West's ability to close the game was huge, something Vogel pointed out specifically after the game, saying when things get hectic, the team searches out West. He came through tonight, scoring seven of Indiana's final eight points to close out the win offensively as part of 17 points on 5-7 shooting and 7-8 from the free throw line. With George Hill's activity early in the third quarter, he wrapped up with 10 points as all five starters reached double figures.
Once again, the starters had to do the heavy lifting as the bench shot a woeful 4-18 from the floor. While their 16 is a notable upgrade over their loss to Phoenix, it's concerning when no one off the bench can find any kind of consistency shooting the ball. Scola made an excellent play to wrap up the win, but he was just 1-3 and had five turnovers on the night. Danny Granger was 1-7 for eight points, but if he's not getting to the line, his drives aren't ending much better than his three point shooting, missing on both of his attempts.
It's part of the reason the acquisition of Andrew Bynum should help. Though Ian Mahinmi is a solid backup center, his inability on the offensive end makes things especially difficult when he has to carry any sort of offensive weight, going 1-4 on the night for three points. The team in interviews throughout the day seemed a little apprehensive about Bynum, but the common theme was about making sure Bynum understands the kind of locker room and culture the Indiana Pacers have, but if he's able to offer offensive relief when needed, he'll be a welcome addition to the roster.
In the end, it wasn't a pretty win, but Indiana's not a team that frets much over the style in which they win as long as they do. They move to 36-10 on the season, regaining the league's best record after a Oklahoma City loss. It also gets them back on the winning track at home, moving to 22-2 at home, setting up a Monday night showdown against Victor Oladipo and the Orlando Magic.