The Indiana Pacers played from behind all night against the Portland Trail Blazers, falling behind 6-0 out of the gate and stumbling through a 16-point first quarter while allowing a big quarter from LaMarcus Aldridge as the Trail Blazers scored 28 first quarter points. Things slowed down for the Pacers in the second quarter, allowing just 22 points in the quarter, but 14 of them were from Damian Lillard, who terrorized Indiana's defense through the halftime buzzer, where Indiana cut the lead to five.
George Hill and David West were the catalysts in the third quarter when they pushed Indiana into their first lead with 6:26 left in the third quarter at 60-59. It was short lived as Aldridge put Portland back up immediately, the Blazers doing a remarkable job all night at holding Indiana at arm's length before Lillard put in six straight Portland points lead in the third quarter, including a four-point play, to make it an eight point game. Hill responded with a huge shot to close the third, but despite a solid 12 minutes, Indiana had lost ground on Portland, heading into the final period down six.
The Pacers opened the fourth on a 6-1 run to move the game to a point, but Aldridge pushed Portland to an 82-77 lead as Wesley Matthews dropped in a three to once again make it an eight point game. West and Hill were big in the fourth as they were all night, leading the Pacers back on an 12-2 run to put Indiana up 93-91 with 3:24 left in the game.
Matthews lit up the scoreboard over the next two minutes, scoring 10 straight Portland points, eventually settling the score at 101-100 that overcome some big shots from West and a huge three pointer from Paul George to put Indiana up a point before Matthews flipped the scoreboard with 1:08 remaining. A Danny Granger turnover gave Portland the ball, sending Nicolas Batum to the free throw line for two free throws that put Portland up 103-100 with 22 seconds remaining.
George missed one of his numerous shots on the night, but West kept the ball alive as Roy Hibbert tracked it down and sent it to Hill who sunk in a three pointer with eight seconds to send the game into overtime locked up at 103-103. Batum gave Portland the first basket in overtime as the Pacers responded with a 10-2 run, highlighted by second chance opportunities and breaks on turnovers, including the biggest bucket in the overtime period with Aldridge losing his balance out of bounds, passing the ball right towards West, who dunked in an easy two points.
Despite a couple of big threes from Lillard in the waning moments of OT, the Pacers were able to hold off the Blazers for the thrilling 118-113 victory. It was a night that was carried by West and Hill, but one where key plays made at key junctures by struggling players helped seal a hard fought victory. Lillard was every bit the star he was when he led Portland to a win over Indiana in December with a game high 38 points and 11 assists.
He was joined by Aldridge, who had 22 points, Robin Lopez who had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Matthews, who after blanking in the first half, exploded for 19 points in the second half, including some ridiculous points in the fourth quarter that epitomized much of Portland's "good offense beats good defense" style of play. Portland had themselves in solid position throughout the night, but it was the Pacers who came in and made the game theirs.
The Pacers were beaten up on the glass in the first half, grabbing just 15 and none on the offensive glass. They changed their fortunes considerably in the second half thanks to rebounding, however, turning an 10 rebound deficit into a one rebound deficit for the game, helped along by 11 offensive rebounds in the second half, scoring 14 second chance points in the second half and overtime. Indiana allowed just 24 points in the paint for Portland, just showing how much success they're able to find in the midrange game.
George Hill put on a clinic in the absence of Lance Stephenson, notching a career best 37 points, while coming close to a triple-double with nine rebounds and eight assists. Hill was every bit as good as his stat line showed, going right against Lillard's output all night, hitting tough shots and coming through in big moments when the team needed help.
It goes without saying the Pacers lose this game without Hill, but it also shows just the kind of impact George Hill can have on a game. While he might be sacrificing his own numbers for the betterment of the team, it's these kinds of abilities that showcase why Hill is an important part of Indiana's team. He's got a solid scoring touch when he gets his shots, putting up 37 on 12-19 shooting, and has consistently shown the ability to play big in big moments, even when the players around him are miring in off-nights.
One player that didn't have an off-night was David West, who scored 30 points on a ridiculous 13-16 output, dishing some of Portland's own attack right back at them, scoring 14 points on top and around the key on 7-8 shooting. Aldridge had a solid night, but needed 24 shots to score his 22, and key defensive stops from West late in the game when Aldridge was on a rampage helped Indiana lay claim to the victory.
The Pacers shot a respectable 45%, simply goes to show how impressive West and Hill's 25-35 shooting effort was on the night considering Rasual Butler was the only Pacer to shoot above 50% on the night. Butler stepped in to his minutes due to Stephenson's injury, and was good enough for 10 points on 3-4 shooting. Butler's signing was largely seen as a mentor type of pickup, but it's his play on the floor that's made him one of the savviest signings in the league.
Butler has been incredibly consistent in his limited minutes, stepping in ready to play whether it's garbage time in the fourth quarter or key minutes with the bench against one of the league's best teams in Portland. It's pretty remarkable the kind of impact Butler has had on this team, even thinking back to the Summer League when he looked out of place among rookies and D-Leaguers.
He really helped lift the weight off of the bench's shoulders, who despite a seven point night from Luis Scola had little going for them with Danny Granger stepping into the starting lineup, scoring seven on 3-10 shooting. Granger certainly didn't shoot the ball well, but came up with a key rebound as part of his six even though he's continued to show little progress in terms of being a player of impact since his return.
The success of his teammates really helped Paul George, who was largely awful offensively on his way to 5-23 shooting. He did rack up 17 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals (while holding Batum to 1-8 shooting), but every shot that usually goes down for George was doing anything but. Despite all of shooting woes, George was responsible for some of Indiana's biggest buckets in the fourth quarter and OT despite going nearly 40 minutes of game action without a field goal, hitting a three to give Indiana a brief 100-99 lead with 90 seconds to go and hitting the game's dagger in OT with 17 seconds remaining.
The way the Pacers fought through for this win was nothing short of impressive. They started slow and had to figure out how to climb out of it, nearly succumbing to wild shots from Portland, but dug in and stopped the Blazers defensively when they had to. The win moves them to 39-10 on the season, 24-2 at home, and moves their current winning streak to four games.
Up next for the Pacers is a road test against the Orlando Magic, who got a last second win against Oklahoma City tonight at home. The Pacers beat Orlando four days ago at home, holding them to 29 second half points en route to a 98-79 victory. The win tonight can hopefully keep the Pacers focused against a Magic team that proved capable of the upset tonight as the two teams tip off Sunday evening at 6 p.m. ET.