Though it was George Hill who led the way for the Indiana Pacers with 22 points, David West's name came up a lot down the stretch. West's play helped seal the win for Indiana the last time they played the Raptors in Toronto, and his 7 points in the final six minutes kept the Pacers in a see-saw game as the game wound down.
The Pacers, tied with under 20 seconds to go, sent West to the free throw line where he would hit the first and miss the second, but a fortuitous offensive board from Tyler Hansbrough helped put Indiana up 3. Toronto with the ball, and the chance to play for overtime, barely got in bounds before West committed what seemed like a curious foul on Jamaal Magloire to put him at the line for two. Magloire, 2-9 on the year from the line, and 1-2 on the night, proceeded to air ball his first free throw, making an eyebrow raising move into a veteran savvy one.
Indiana not only took advantage of the free throw line, finishing 32-38 on the night, but were aided by Toronto missing their final four from the charity stripe, as they stumbled at just 20-32. But that the game was even in position to be won by the Pacers sure seems like a small miracle given how the game began. The Raptors, not only short Andrea Bargnani, but Jerryd Bayless as well, made no excuses as they stormed out to an 11-2 lead, that ballooned to 13 later in the first and 16 points at the halfway point of the second quarter.
Toronto was shooting above 60%; Indiana, below 30%. The Pacers weren't moving the ball much, if at all, on possessions, settling for the one on one play they should know hasn't (and won't) give them success at any point. But the Pacers, trailing 40-24, rattled off a 14-2 capped by Danny Granger to pull them within four. Then, with the half closing out, Granger followed a big block on Ed Davis by hovering over Davis, an act that warranted him a technical foul, which happened to be his second, tossing him from the game.
Despite being short one of their best pieces, the Pacers continued to fight back, riding Roy Hibbert's post play early in the third quarter. As the third quarter progressed, Indiana struggled to get over the three point wall, eventually letting up a 9-2 Toronto run that pushed the Raptor lead to double figures. Indiana responded with a 9-1 run of their own, eventually Paul George getting the basket to tie the game up at 65 with the third quarter winding down.
The fourth quarter turned into a back and forth affair with neither team pulling ahead by more than two points. George Hill was huge at this point in the game, scoring 7 of his 22 in the first half of the quarter, helping to lead the Pacers to an always good road victory. It may have been ugly, but it looks pretty in the standings, as Indiana improves to 8-3 on the year.
After the jump, more on a gutsy road victory:
- George Hill not only led the way in scoring for the Pacers with 22 points, tacking on 5 steals, but did so on just 11 shots. When the team looked to be going through the motions, Hill was the one playing. When ball movement stopped, Hill was the one who bailed them out. His play not only helped the team through some rough patches, but helped the team in getting them into the lead when the game was a see-saw affair in the fourth quarter.
- Roy Hibbert had another quiet 15 points and 9 rebounds. Five of his boards were on the offensive glass, important given Indiana's struggles shooting early. Four of those rebounds led to 9 second chance points, six by Hibbert himself. For David West to help close the game out was important, not only to secure the win, but because Roy fouling out could've set the Pacers up in a rough situation had the game gone an extra period.
- The Pacers were plagued by bad play early in the game, to the tune of 10 turnovers early in the second quarter. But they cleaned up their game and had just 6 for the rest of the game, while forcing Toronto into turnovers, eventually winning the turnover battle. Despite the rough start, Indiana fought back and won even category aside from assists. While Toronto dominated the first 18 minutes, the Pacers showcased a tremendous turnaround, one they've come across at times this season; one they shouldn't look to become reliant on, especially as tougher competition shows up.
All in all, Indiana's win borderlines surreal given all the negative action that took place early, but not deterred by the ejection of Danny Granger, they zeroed in and were able to snatch a victory they may not have deserved on the road. The Pacers' 8-3 record keeps them with the upper echelon teams in the Eastern Conference, though with some underachieving competition (the team has had just three games against above .500 teams), they still have a lot to prove.
So even though the Boston Celtics sit at 4-6 and on a three game losing streak that began at home against the Pacers, they are still a challenge for the young Indiana squad, who will host those Celtics Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers, sitting at 4-0 at home, are in no position to give away any home games early in the season with just three more home games in January.