Cautiously, but interestingly enough, the Indiana Pacers appear to be on a "roll." Having now won five of their last six after their 0-3 start, they seem to have found a key to success in their defensive play, forcing six turnovers over a six minute stretch, holding the Boston Celtics to two points in that period as Indiana pulled away from the Celtics late for the 100-89 win. Indiana held Boston to just 17 fourth quarter points, their lowest output of the night.
One of the biggest swings in Indiana's favor was their play at the end of quarters. The Pacers topped Boston 6-0 in end of quarter points, setting them up for an 81-74 lead heading into the fourth. That lead was enough to keep Boston in the rear view early in the fourth when Boston closed the gap to three at 90-87 with 7:26 remaining in the game before the Pacers were off to the races for the victory.
All six of those points were scored by Paul George on isolation plays. None of them were pretty, but the results sure were. George hit a pair of tough jumpers in the first and second quarters and forced his way to the line in the third. It's easy to criticize the degree of difficulty on the shots as opposed to simply moving the ball around for a good look, but in a way you expect your franchise player to be a good bad shot maker, and George was tonight.
Aside from the difficulty of those shots, the concerns of the isolation plays were directly linked to George's struggles as a ball handler. He posted six more turnovers tonight, often from over-dribbling, on a night when Indiana had 19, which led to 20 Boston points. George had a third of Indiana's turnovers, but he wasn't the only culprit who fell victim to lazy passes or bad ball handling.
George did lead Indiana with 26 points on 10-22 shooting, posting a double double with 10 boards. As well as George played, there was a real team effort in helping lead them towards the victory. C.J. Miles had 17, looking very good on his ankle with Monta Ellis also reaching double figures with 13 points and four steals. The two combined for 12 points in the paint, and surprisingly it's where Indiana found most of their offensive success tonight.
The Pacers had 50 points in the paint, managing to take advantage of Boston's front line. Jordan Hill had eight of his 12 in the paint, a nice change of pace from he and Lavoy Allen's recent struggles around the rim. Ian Mahinmi reached double figures with 11 points and three blocks, getting Hack-a-Ian'd late in the second quarter, going 3-6 in the stretch before Brad Stevens called it off.
One lingering effect from the Hack-a-Ian stretch was how muddy the game became. Fouls piled up through the game, with a total of 54 whistled on the two teams, leading to 63 total free throws. This more or less defined the third quarter after the teams traded blows early in the quarter with Evan Turner scoring Boston's first seven of the half (of his team high 20) and George responding with nine of his own as part of an 11-0 Pacers run. Chase Budinger also reached double figures for the Pacers for the first time tonight, scoring 10 off the bench and helping Indiana especially on the defensive end.
The only real downside to the night was an early injury to Myles Turner. A minute into action, Turner exited the game with what would be diagnosed as a fracture in his left hand on his thumb. Turner will see further evaluation once the team returns to Indianapolis, but it stands to be a frustrating injury for Turner, who's been impressive in his early goings this season, but it could open up time for Shayne Whittington or Rakeem Christmas.
Indiana improves to 5-4 on the season, and will look to post their second consecutive three game winning streak when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday at home. No longer a pushover, the upstart Wolves are 4-3 and a surprising 4-0 on the road to start the season, including back-to-back wins over Chicago and Atlanta, adding a little extra juice to the difficulty curve.