Despite a gaudy final score, the Indiana Pacers didn't really put any distance between themselves and the Brooklyn Nets until halfway through the third quarter. A hot start by the Nets set up a back and forth affair, where a frustrated Pacers team nursed a 50-47 halftime lead. In the third, the Nets kept pace, trailing by the same three points halfway through the third, when Indiana began to open things up.
The Pacers broke into double figures on a 9-0 run, following that up with a 10-13 shooting stretch that turned a 60-57 advantage to a 93-71 lead early in the fourth. The Nets made a push out of a timeout, cutting the lead to 14 on a 9-1 run, but a pair of missed jumpers on ensuing possessions doomed the Nets as David West stepped into two big game sealing jumpers of his own.
Indiana blew open the scoreboard in garbage time, rounding out a 110-85 victory over the Nets, sealing their third win in four games. All four games featured one common theme: a Pacers offense that shot at or above 50%, the longest such streak for the Pacers since the late stages of the 2008-09 season. The Pacers were able to shoot 51.2% on the night thanks to 48 points in the paint, including 21 fast break points on a 19-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
The defense was did their part all night as well, holding the Nets under 40% nearly the entire night. Even in the first half, when the Nets were keeping pace with Indiana, who had threatened a double digit lead in the second quarter, it was free throws that kept Brooklyn alive. The Nets had 10 of their 24 second quarter points at the line, scoring just seven points at the line in the entire second half.
All in all, Indiana outscored Brooklyn 60-38 in the second half, a vintage performance for the Pacers, who had a bit of a measuring stick game in moving up the NBA hierarchy from the plain bad they've been to the level of mediocrity they'll need to make a playoff push. That's not exactly aiming high, but the Pacers, who are more or less complete, shy of some illness issues and Ian Mahinmi, could be looking to make a push as Indiana moves to 11-20 on the year.
The Pacers offense was on point tonight with ball movement, assisting on 33 of their 44 field goals. The Pacers out-assisted the Nets 33-15, while also grabbing 11 steals to go along with it. A healthy +10 rebounding effort also keyed Indiana towards victory, and no amount of Kevin Garnett blowing in David West's ear could've swung the numbers back in Brooklyn's favor.
Rodney Stuckey led the Pacers with 20 points on the night, an impressive effort given the facial contusion he suffered in last night's loss to Detroit. Stuckey shot 7-13 from the floor, filling up the stat sheet in the meantime with eight assists, six rebounds, and four steals. Stuckey wasn't short in help on the night, with seven Pacers reaching double figures.
David West scored 15 of his 17 in the second half to help the Pacers push towards the win. He also had five rebounds and five assists. West blanked from the field in the first half, but a 7-10 second half, including two big buckets that ended Brooklyn's final push in the game.
C.J. Watson also pitched in 17 points off the bench, though eight of those points came in the final two minutes with the game well out of reach (though two of his late buckets came on Shayne Whittington assists). Watson made contributions elsewhere with nine rebounds and five assists as the Indiana bench outscored Brooklyn's 52-16.
Lavoy Allen scored 10 points with seven rebounds (three offensive) as he scored six points early in the second quarter to help push Indiana from a one point lead to seven, an early sign of opportunity for Indiana. Luis Scola also scored six points in the second quarter, as part of his 12 on the night. Chris Copeland got run tonight with C.J. Miles sitting out with illness, and aside from some weird Copeland decisions with the ball, played well with 12 points and four assists.
The lack of rust on George Hill in his return has been a positive surprise as he reached double figures for the third straight game, scoring 12 points in his first start of the season. Hill did most of his work in the first half, but also reaped the rewards of stat stuffing with six boards and five assists.
Roy Hibbert and Solomon Hill were the only rotation players to not reach double figures. Hibbert had six points on 3-6 shooting, but did play in high spirits coming away with a couple of blocks. Only Solo had a rough outing, with three points on a single three pointer standing between him and a foul ridden game.
It was certainly a positive sign seeing the Pacers bounce back the way they did after last night's frustrating loss, but unlike last season, the Pacers appeared more on point in the second half of a back-to-back. Copeland stepping in certainly helped, but Indiana has been in a good place for the most part over the last seven games. The Pacers are 4-3 in their last seven, but have had opportunities to win the games they lost and looked good in the games they won.
With the schedule continuing to be favorable, albeit a brief detour at home against a Chicago Bulls team that will no doubt never forget what Indiana did to them on their home floor, Indiana has a chance to continue pushing forward on the year, sitting just two games behind Brooklyn now for the eighth playoff spot. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, on the other hand...