The still injury riddled Indiana Pacers took on the Utah Jazz tonight back home at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Coming off a six game losing streak the Pacers looked to grab a win at home before hitting the road to Miami on Wednesday. Much to the delight of Pacers fans everywhere (unless you're into the tanking idea) the Pacers defeated the Jazz 97-86.
Roy Hibbert returned to the lineup after missing the end of the Wizards game Saturday due to a bruised knee, and it's a good thing he did. Hibbert came out ready to play. In a first quarter where the team struggled, and shot 29.2 percent from the field, Hibbert would score 11 points keeping the Jazz lead at only 20-17. The most shocking part of the low scoring quarter was that the turnover prone Pacers did not commit a turnover and still only scored 17 points. Cold shooting will do that to you.
The Pacers heated up in the second quarter, and tightened up the defense, using an 11-2 run to take a 47-41 lead into halftime. Hibbert hit a turnaround jumper as time expired in the half to get to his team leading 17 points, second to Hibbert in scoring for the half was recent signing A.J. Price who added 7 points. Roy was active in the paint early, getting to line five times and hitting all of his free throws.
The cold shooting returned to begin the third quarter, and the lead quickly evaporated. The Jazz would take a one point lead with 8 minutes remaining, thanks in large part to Gordon Hayward's scoring and playmaking. The run would extend to 19-4 in favor of Utah and the Jazz lead would extend to 60-53 with 6 minutes gone in the third quarter.
The Pacers would not stay down. Thanks to strong play from Solomon Hill, and 5 points from A.J. Price they would close the quarter strong, taking a 72-69 heading into the fourth.
Indiana would take control in the fourth quarter behind a spectacular performance by A.J. Price. Price would finish the game with 22 points, 15 coming in the second half. The Pacers would pull away at the end of the fourth quarter on their way to a 97-86 win.
One of the positive aspects of this season has been the reemergence of Roy Hibbert. Even though the team is not winning consistently he has been a completely different player than the guy that slumped towards the end of last season. He is playing fantastic defense, as usual, and is scoring better than ever. He finished with a season high 29 points, and also had 5 rebounds.Even if this season is lottery bound Hibbert regaining good form could be huge for his future with the Pacers.
A game after scoring a career high 28 points, Solomon Hill turned in another good effort. Hill had 13 points and showcased a nice post game when guarded by smaller guards, along with solid perimeter defense.
Lavoy Allen continues to raise the question of whether he should be getting more minutes than Luis Scola. Allen was a beast on the glass and efficient from the field, scoring 12 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in only 27 minutes.
Former Butler star, avid gamer, hairstyle icon, and recent LeBron slayer Gordon Hayward is turning into quite the player for Utah. Hayward led the Jazz with 30 points on 11 of 15 from the field, but it would not be enough to lead his team to victory. Enes Kanter was also impressive. He scored 18 points and showed off a good outside shot. Australian rookie Dante Exum was noticeably absent. He struggled shooting, going 1 for 5 with only 3 points.
The Pacers will hit the road Wednesday, and try for two wins in a row, while taking on the Miami Heat. Things will certainly look different than they did the last time these two met, in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. This time around Lance Stephenson is in Charlotte, Paul George is on the sideline, and LeBron James is arguing (and getting a triple double) with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Will this diminish the burgeoning rivalry? Probably, but we will watch with Heat hatred in our hearts anyway.