The Indiana Pacers finally found some good things to grasp onto in a gratifying, albeit close victory over the Detroit Pistons. Indiana found their way to line in the first quarter to help keep their offense afloat with poor shooting continuing to plague the Pacers. Detroit led most of the quarter, moving ahead by nine 25-16 with a 10-2 run as the Pacers stumbled from the field at just 3-15 shooting.
The Pacers found some success on the offensive glass, finishing the quarter on a 12-2 run to take a 28-27 lead. It was Indiana's highest scoring quarter since the third quarter against Chicago on March 21, helped along by a tightly officiated first quarter, which Indiana converted into nine points from the free throw line despite shooting under 40% from the field. Roy Hibbert left the game late in the quarter with a sore neck after a tough fall whipped his head onto the floor
Ian Mahinmi played exceptionally well tonight in Hibbert's absence, scoring three of Indiana's five points following Hibbert's exit, who would miss the rest of the first half with the neck injury. Andre Drummond and Rodney Stuckey pulled off an 8-0 Detroit run halfway through the quarter to put the Pistons ahead 40-35 before Lance Stephenson turned the game around for the Pacers.
Following a Drummond free throw, Stephenson attacked the rim and threw down a big dunk, which he followed up with a forceful rebound on the other end. Stephenson found Paul George in the corner for a three pointer to tie the game up. Another Stephenson rebound led to a (maybe too) fancy pass to Mahinmi who converted to put Indiana ahead 42-40. After forcing another miss, Stephenson found Mahinmi again who made the extra pass to George to cap a 10-0 run and put the Pacers up five.
Too much up and down play recently has made it difficult to make a lot of that mere 1:29 span, but for a Pacers team that needed not only signs of life on offense, but needed that to happen, it was an incredible lift. Stephenson would score four more in the half as the Pacers took a lead into the break at 50-45 as Indiana's shooting percentage climbed above 40% for the first time in what feels like an eternity.
Hibbert returned for the third quarter, but Indiana was never able to shake the Pistons in the second half, as leads of eight and seven were trimmed down time and time again by Detroit. The Pacers didn't relent the lead through most of the quarter, leading 69-62 with 3:19 left in the quarter. Detroit found plenty of success shooting in the second half from three point range, hitting a pair as part of a 9-0 response to give Detroit the 71-69 lead.
The Pacers fell behind as the offense took a dive, with hero ball and a bad looks resulting in a few bricks as another three to close the quarter put Detroit ahead 74-73. Mahinmi and Luis Scola led the Pacers into the fourth quarter with the two splitting the team's first 11 points of the final quarter to take an 83-80 advantage with under eight to go. Hibbert would score the next four with Indiana holding a slim 87-83 lead.
The lead wouldn't balloon above four for the next three minutes as Stuckey, Josh Smith, and Brandon Jennings were able to respond to every shot Indiana put in, including a 35-footer from George as the shot clock was running down (a missed shot by Hibbert was rebounded by Hibbert who kicked it out to George, but a failure to reset the shot clock resulted in George hoisting up a prayer that was answered with the shot clock resetting with the shot in midair).
George's play down the stretch was huge as was David West's, who appeared to find some rhythm with his shot as the Pacers continued to keep Detroit at bay, coming away with a George steal as the Pacers pushed the lead to five. Another turnover by the Pistons, failing to pull in the rebound extended Indiana's lead as they went to the line to close out a well earned 101-94 victory.
With the ugliness of the shooting and overall offensive flow, it was great to see a team that couldn't reach 40% shooting in a game shoot 49.4% (with the number dipping below 50% on a pair of late misses) and Donald Sloan (0-2 shooting) being the only player in Indiana's ten man rotation to shoot below 40% on the night. The Pacers needed all the offense they could get against the Pistons, who amassed 17 offensive rebounds (13 between Drummond and Greg Monroe) which led to 14 extra shot attempts.
Indiana's success late helped even up the overall rebounding game, but that was helped along by forcing Detroit into 36.6% shooting on the night, despite hitting six second half three pointers to help keep them in the game. Josh Smith had 15 first quarter points, but was a non-factor until he showed up in the fourth quarter with a big three. His 3-4 three point shooting night off balanced when frustration over not receiving a pass allowed West to sink the game's dagger.
While Lance Stephenson wound up with a modest 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists, his play in the second quarter was the most important lift of the game for the Pacers, who may have continued to languish without Lance Stephenson being Lance Stephenson. Indiana had 24 assists on 39 buckets and Stephenson kick started a lot of that.
Paul George led the way with a game high 27, making it a double double with 13 rebounds, along with seven assists. George found success with his shooting at a modest 9-19, hitting four of his 10 three point attempts along the way. With the game at 87-85 with 5:07 left, George finished the game as strong as he has in quite some time, scoring eight points in the game's final eight minutes to help seal Indiana's win.
Roy Hibbert's fall was fairly nasty, so it was nice to see him return and have a solid game with 11 points. He still only came up with three rebounds, but was patient with the ball and made good shots when given the opportunity. Ian Mahinmi did a fantastic job tonight in his spell, however, leading the bench with 10 points and five rebounds. Mahinmi and Luis Scola really led at 25 point bench effort. Scola had nine points and seven rebounds (four offensive), including big minutes early in the fourth as the Pacers regained the lead. Evan Turner didn't play great, but made a pair of nice plays and Rasual Butler had two.
David West appeared on pace for another sluggish shooting game with his early success coming inside, but a pair of big jumpers late in the third and to close the game was great to see and could hopefully move him, along with the rest of the team, back into finding offensive success. George Hill had a quiet, solid game of 12 points, including five trips to the line as all five starters reached double figures.
After hearing boos on Wednesday, the Pacers were given a standing ovation following their win tonight. While Detroit slips out of the playoff picture, the Pistons have still played Indiana incredibly tough this season and are still the only Eastern Conference team to have beaten Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But Indiana continuing to win at home isn't really the problem.
Despite their recent struggles overall, they've still won five of their last six at home. Indiana will have a chance to prove this wasn't just a one game fluke as they travel to Ontario to face the Toronto Raptors. The Pacers have lost five straight on the road, including four straight under 80 points. With Toronto fighting to maintain the third seed in the Eastern Conference, they'll be ready for the Pacers in what could be a potential playoff series. The Pacers remain in second place by percentage points after Miami's win tonight against Milwaukee.