Early in the game thread action, there was a minor discussion about whether the Indiana Pacers defense was as woeful as Indianapolis's other major professional team the Colts, who wound up on the wrong side of a 51-16 blowout of their own on Sunday. The Pacers' recent defense has had its own struggles, with Indiana allowing 123.5 points per game in their last four losses, aided by a combination of poor effort, bad transition defense, and inability to rebound off of misses, helping opponents to easy three point looks.
As this discussion took place, the Toronto Raptors were rapidly opening up what would be a 26-5 lead in the first half of the first quarter. Ten points off of turnovers, four three pointers, and poor effort was at the forefront again for a Toronto sucker-punch on the Pacers. While Indiana struggled on defense, their offense did no better, starting 1-8 from the floor, bad ball movement resulting in four early turnovers.
A Rodney Stuckey jumper, followed by a Monta Ellis three point play gave a slight boost to Indiana, with a Paul George three capping eight straight points for Indiana. From that point, the Pacers were revitalized. Better shot selection and easy buckets keyed by a vastly improved and focused defensive effort allowed the Pacers to rattle off a 22-0 run to go up 27-26. Toronto responded with an end of quarter bucket to lead 28-27 after one, but the Pacers weren't done.
Indiana had a 17-2 to open the second quarter to put them in firm control of the game. Toronto managed to shave four off of Indiana's then 15 point lead at the break, but for over eight minutes, the Pacers defense held Toronto to just two points in the second quarter, eventually winning the quarter 25-13. The Pacers held Toronto at bay for the remainder of the game, eventually blowing their lead to 26 in the fourth en route to a 106-90 victory to secure their first victory over the Raptors in nearly two years.
The sudden improvement from Indiana came once Rodney Stuckey entered action, but continued with the somewhat maligned bench bigs of Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill. The three led a 47-point bench mob night, holding Toronto to 25 points including a late garbage time run. Hill led all Pacers with a 20 point, 13 rebound double double, playing one of his best games as a Pacer.
Allen had a near double double of his own, scoring eights and pulling in 10 rebounds. Combined, Hill and Allen had 10 of Indiana's 11 offensive boards, creating 11 second chance points. Stuckey also reached double figures with 10 points on 5-7 shooting.
For the starters, Monta Ellis was the biggest boost with 18 points and three steals. His steals directly led to five points for Indiana in their first half runs, giving an identity to the big defensive upswing in tonight's game. Paul George was the recipient of one of those steals, hitting a three pointer to force a Toronto timeout, but foul trouble limited George's effectiveness on the night.
George had 16 on 5-13, but hit four three pointers, with he and C.J. Miles carrying the load from behind the arc, hitting nine of the Pacers' 10 on the night (Ellis punched in the remaining three). Miles had 17, hitting all five of his three point attempts. As an addendum, Joe Young and Glenn Robinson III each put in a bucket in their end of game minutes.
It's a bit tricky at this point to figure where the Pacers will go from here. The Indiana defense has been at wild extremes over their past six games. The staggering 123.5 points allowed in losses drops to just 86.5 in their two wins. It's easy to see where the Pacers need to be defensively, but focus and effort are often their own opponents across an NBA season.
Fortunately, the Pacers will have an extra day to ready themselves for the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at home.