The Indiana Pacers may have wrapped up a wire to wire victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, but needed every bit of their 9-0 start to close out the slumping Sixers for a 101-94 victory. The quick start for the Pacers, spurred by great ball movement, helped set the tone early, but Indiana was never really able to build upon it, facing resistance from the 76ers and their own ability to hold onto the basketball.
Indiana had no trouble pushing the game into double figures, but had excruciating difficulty keeping the game in double figures. Philadelphia climbed back into single digits nine separate times over the course of the game, with them fighting back to within five at 87-82 with 7:50 left in the fourth. The game stayed lock in at 87-82 for three minutes of Pacers turnovers before Thaddeus Young broke the gridlock with a pair of free throws.
Between turning the ball over and picking up poorly time technical fouls, George Hill found time kick start a 6-0 run with a layup and a pair of assists to David West as the Pacers jumped up 93-84. The Sixers responded with a 6-0 run of their own to bring the game back to three before Paul George hit a tough layup with 2:12 remaining to give Indiana a five point lead.
The Pacers stood on defense on the ensuing possession, coming back down the floor for a Hill three to help sink the dagger into the seven point victory. Indiana may have held on to give Philadelphia their 19th straight loss, but they helped the 76ers to their first single digit defeat since February 12, when their current losing streak was just eight strong.
Ball control was a major part of the final score tonight, with Indiana turning it over 22 times on the night, nine coming in the final quarter. Philadelphia had eight points in the fourth quarter off of those turnovers, part of their 20 in the game, proving more than enough to keep them well in the game despite the poor start. The turnovers led to 23 extra shot attempts for Philadelphia, who shot just 38.9%, while Indiana shot a season best 58.2% with just 67 field goal attempts.
The shot attempts were also skewed due to Indiana's poor offensive rebounding, coming up with just four on the night. Two of them came on one possession late in the fourth quarter, when Hill and Roy Hibbert each missed shots at the basket before Hill came up with a layup to give Indiana a five point lead. Philadelphia had nine. Philly also ruled the transition game, outscoring Indiana 18-5 in fast break points.
With the Pacers re-establishing themselves as the kings of the unforced turnover, it really helped enhance the things the 76ers did well tonight. Make no mistake, the Sixers are not a good basketball team, but the Pacers presented them with every opportunity to make them look like one, including 25 points and 10 assists from Young on 10-31 shooting and a near triple-double from Michael Carter-Williams with 12 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Not to mention Byron Mullins, who went perfect from the field in the first half for his season best 15.
Paul George did play well tonight despite leading the Pacers in turnovers with five. He was 9-15 from the floor, was excellent in catch and shoot situations, and made big plays throughout the night, wrapping up with 25 points on 4-7 three point shooting with six assists and two steals. David West had 18, playing big down the stretch with two huge baskets. He also had four blocks.
Hibbert was pretty quiet all night, but came up with plenty of defensive stops with his five blocks. George Hill was a big give and take player tonight, struggling from the floor at 4-11, but hitting key buckets and leading the team in assists with nine. But he struggled with turnovers late in the game and picked up a poor technical that helped along Philly's 6-0 run with under three minutes remaining. Lance Stephenson was much more effective shooting, going 6-8 for 13 points and 12 rebounds, but did contribute to the turnover problem with four of his own, all coming in the second half.
The bench had 25 points, helped largely by Lavoy Allen, whose return to Philly was rewarded with his first real game action with the Pacers. Allen scored 13 points on 6-9 shooting, putting himself in good position on both ends of the floor to be a big part of Indiana's bench success, especially in the first half. Luis Scola had an efficient nine points on 2-3 shooting, despite a less than efficient 5-8 from the free throw line, another issue for the Pacers, who were just 14-22 from the line on the night.
C.J. Watson returned to action tonight, providing a nice boost in the first half with a three pointer, but a hamstring injury took him out of action in the second half, casting doubt on his availability for tomorrow night's game in Detroit. About the Pistons, the close win against the 76ers will certainly make tomorrow night's road contest a tricky one if trends hold true relative to . Indiana may have moved to 16-2 on the first night of back-to-backs, but face a 9-8 record on the second night, just 5-8 when those games are on the road.
Detroit's victory over Indiana in December was a bit of an eye opener at the time, making tomorrow night's game a concerning one, despite Detroit's 25-40 record. The Pacers will not only be short Donald Sloan for tomorrow night's game, but there's a good chance Watson won't be available either due to his new injury. On the bright side, Andrew Bynum will return to the court to give the Pacers some valuable size to match up with the big Pistons. Elsewhere, Miami lost their fifth game in six tries, pushing Indiana's lead in the East to three games.