The Indiana Pacers appeared to be in control of their game against the struggling Los Angeles Lakers after taking a commanding 18-6 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter. But despite their success offensively, they did little on the defensive end as they got sucked into an up and down game as the Lakers opened up offensively and slowly climbed back into the game.
In the second quarter, the Lakers never allowed the Pacers to jump out by more than 10, as they were aided significantly by their ability to block shots. They blocked 11 first half shots against the Pacers, which limited Indiana's ability to open the game up despite a ridiculous rebounding advantage. All the while, the Lakers continued to chip away at Indiana's lead, drawing the game to within a single point within the final minute of the first half. The Pacers appeared well out of sorts, allowing 31 second quarter points, leading 57-54 at the break.
The game continued to be disjointed into the third quarter, with Indiana leading 61-59 at the 9:11 mark before George Hill scored five quick points as part of a 10-2 run that put Indiana into a double figure lead. The Pacers had finally woken up defensively, holding the Lakers to 16 third quarter points as they pushed their two point halftime lead to 21, helping to put the game on ice as they wrapped up a 118-98 victory.
The Pacers were able to open the score up in part due to their ability to adjust to the Lakers defense. After 11 first half blocks, the Lakers had just a single second half block. Indiana's ease of scoring came with 21 offensive rebounds as part of 62 overall rebounds for the night. They outrebounded Los Angeles by 20 and had 11 extra shot attempts, finishing with 101, their highest shot total of the season. While Indiana had plenty of success in transition (20 fast break points), turnovers (17 points off of 17 turnovers), and with 10 blocks and 11 steals, they allowed similar numbers to the Lakers, which does take away from their overall performance, with general sloppiness on offense despite shooting 46.5%.
Evan Turner made his Pacers debut tonight in spectacular offensive fashion, scoring 13 points on 6-12 shooting. Turner looked comfortable on the floor and showed improved effort over his effort for much of the season with the Sixers, but it's not to suggest his game isn't going to be a potential mess on certain nights. Turner seemed to find much of his success in midrange jumpers and that's hardly an automatic shot from night to night.
Turner seems like a player that won't be without some issues, however. While he shot the ball tonight, his game seems tailor made to have severe off nights. With a lack of solid defensive habits, there could be problems on nights where he's not shooting well. But whether nights like tonight, where he does play extremely well and sparks an offensive explosion for the bench (albeit against a bad team), can be more of the norm compared to the nights when he could be a detriment to Indiana's second unit success will be the big question.
Also, his success tonight, making a bigger and more active offensive impact than much of what Danny Granger has offered this season, there's no reason to believe the upside of Turner off of the bench can't heavily outweigh any negatives he might bring. After all, when he plays well, it gives Indiana a wrinkle they haven't had this season. If he plays poorly, well, the Pacers did well in the season's first 55 games with their share of bench struggles.
The bench as a whole had 50 points tonight, though ample garbage time in the fourth quarter helps pad that, but Indiana's bench four rotation played well. Luis Scola does continue to struggle, but did find success at the line to score nine points on 3-8 shooting with nine rebounds. The real success came from C.J. Watson, who found his own hot shooting night, scoring 11 on 5-6 from the floor and Ian Mahinmi, who continues his redemption tour, scoring nine points on 4-7 shooting with a pair of blocks.
The starting unit all reached double figures, led by Paul George, who scored 20. George struggled shooting in the first half, but scoring six straight points for the Pacers in the third quarter really helped open up Indiana's third quarter lead. George did have seven rebounds and six assists with a pair of steals. George Hill followed up a dismal (sick or not) performance with an outstanding 14 on 6-9 shooting, with his five points in the third quarter setting up Indiana's success in the second half.
Lance Stephenson had 13 points and nine rebounds, but seemed like his passes had a little too much on them all night. He had just three turnovers credited to him, but appeared to have a hand in a good deal of others, including one where he tried to fight a rebound from Scola, sending Scola into a confused daze as he fumbled the ball out of bounds. Stephenson and Turner appeared to play well together. The similar skill set of the two has potential to really shine and their playmaking passes might actually reach other with some work.
David West had 11 points and 12 rebounds to go along with three steals while Roy Hibbert rounded out the starters with 10 points and six rebounds with four blocks. The Pacers had seven double figure scorers on the night as they reached a near season high 118 points. The win moves Indiana to a league best 43-13, giving them their first set of back-to-back wins since February 7th.
The win also keeps them two games ahead of the Heat for first in the Eastern Conference, and with the schedule breaking favorably tonight and for the next four or five games, there's little reason the Pacers shouldn't piece together a few more nights like tonight, even if they are a bit sloppy at times. Indiana will tip off next at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. They held on to beat a run-happy Bucks team on Saturday, but hopefully a change of venue will help an easier outcome on Thursday night's game.