Perhaps because of the lax defensive effort from the Indiana Pacers, or the fact the Minnesota Timberwolves were hitting just about everything, but the Pacers weren't following up their woeful defensive showing against Miami by allowing Minnesota to score 54 points in the first half. The only real good to come from the first half was Indiana's offense, fueled by Roy Hibbert's 17, as well as the impressive 8-0 run they used to close the quarter, a run that would end up being a common theme for a much heavier defensive effort in the second half.
Each time Minnesota challenged, the Pacers would routinely rattle off a nice run to push the game out of reach, and Hibbert seemed to be in the middle of every push. Hibbert finished the night with a season high 27 points to go with 12 boards and four blocks, but his points didn't really tell the whole story. It was his 10-15 shooting, his eight free throw attempts, his confidence around the rim, and his ability to control the game with nine offensive boards that he turned into 16 points. Sure Hibbert has looked better lately, but tonight, he looked good. He looked every bit the player the Pacers were strapped into paying him to be. And when Hibbert is playing well, it makes everyone else's jobs a whole lot easier.
In fact, Hibbert's 16 second chance points were part of a 52-24 advantage in points in the paint, which illustrates just how well Minnesota shot the ball tonight, to even have opportunities tonight. Paul George was second-in-command tonight, scoring 17 points, including a key stretch late in the third quarter that pushed the lead to 16, but was a little off tonight due to being over aggressive, leading to five fouls, each more frustrating for him than the last. George Hill struggled a bit when matched against Ricky Rubio, but played well for 16 points, five rebounds, and six assists.
David West had an interesting night. Because of Hibbert simply going to work, West spent the night simply playing. While he was key late to finish with 13 points, he was a vital part of the team with 10 rebounds and six assists, probably leaving a couple on the floor tossing out to a cold shooting Lance Stephenson, who quickly made the extra pass. Stephenson was cold, but he was cold mostly due to his own shot selection. With a handful of pull up threes, and difficult plays at the rim, his night finished up at 2-11, not surprisingly.
Orlando Johnson had 10 points late to cap the game for Indiana as part of his 12 point night. The bench played fair tonight, everyone got on the board, but D.J. Augustin's shot disappeared again (is this a home/away thing?). The front line was solid, with Ian Mahinmi offering nice minutes and Tyler Hansbrough using the energy in a positive fashion tonight, each finishing with five.
The defense for the Pacers in the second half was a welcome sight after a really poor defensive first half. Of course, the Wolves deserve credit for their shooting exhibition, but defense appeared optional before Indiana locked in to hold Minnesota in the second half to 37 points, dropping their shooting percentage 11%. Ricky Rubio was very impressive for the Timberwolves, leading them in the night after his first triple-double with 21 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds.
Indiana took care of business in their 107-91 victory, and set themselves up for another late season "test" against a playoff team with the Los Angeles Lakers (who have, in fact, gotten themselves into the top eight in the West) visiting on Friday. The Lakers have played high level ball in recent games, but have come up short on the road against winning teams, making Friday's game a measuring stick game for the Lakers, one the Pacers can't afford to let out of their grasp.
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