Forget rotation tweaks or working back injured players. It appeared all the Indiana Pacers needed to do to shake out of their 2-9 funk was to channel some good vibes from their Flo-Jo uniforms. The Pacers took part in the NBA's Hardwood Classic Nights series, wearing their Florence Griffith-Joyner designed jerseys the team wore from 1990-1997. The end result was only Indiana's best shooting night since 2011 and a 114-109 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The tone of the night was set early by the Pistons, hitting their first five three pointers, while Indiana made four of their own in the first quarter, enough to give the Pacers a 29-26 advantage at the end of the quarter. In the second, the Pacers held Detroit at arm's length until the final minutes of the half, when a three minute scoring drought to end the half was enough to push Detroit into the lead at 49-48.
Indiana regained the lead and opened the game up to a double figure advantage in the third quarter, using a 12-0 run to break a 58-58 tie. But Detroit closed the gap quickly, using an 8-0 run on a pair of threes as a Shayne Whittington jumper to end the quarter gave Indiana an 81-76 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Detroit scored six straight to open the fourth to take the lead 82-81, but three straight threes from the Pacers turned the game back into Indiana's favor.
Detroit stormed back to tie the game, eventually broken up when C.J. Miles put in a pair of three pointers after feeling he was robbed of a clear path foul opportunity as the Pacers held on to defeat Detroit in their highest scoring game of the season. The Pacers not only scored a season best 114 points, but shot a season high 59.7%, a staggering total for a Pacers team that has routinely struggled offensively in Frank Vogel's tenure as coach.
The shooting was led by the starters, who all posted nights north of 50% from the floor. Vogel made a switch before the game, starting C.J. Miles in place of Solomon Hill, and while Miles hasn't played great in a starting role, he opened up tonight, scoring 15 points on 4-7 shooting, all four makes from three point range while coming up with three steals.
The play of Miles in the starting unit didn't take too much away from the bench. Hill had a late three as part of his six point night, but C.J. Watson came out of his own slump, scoring 14 on four three pointers as well. Damjan Rudez put in a pair of threes and Luis Scola scored nine on 4-8 shooting, though he came up with a rare goose egg in the rebound column, not as if either team rebounded all that way given the volume of shooting.
Shayne Whittington got extended minutes tonight due to an ankle sprain from Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi suffered the sprain in the second quarter, but x-rays were negative, giving some hope to what looked like a pretty nasty sprain. Whittington scored six in his seven minutes of action, looking solid in his run, at least on the offensive side of the floor.
In the starting unit, Indiana was led by George Hill, who returned to the starting lineup, but still in limited minutes. Hill played 26 minutes, but scored a game high 20 points on 8-12 shooting. Hill made a number of sharp passes throughout the night as part of his six assists, though there was an ugly blemish from the free throw line, leaving five children without backpacks on a 3-8 night from the line.
Roy Hibbert also played extremely well offensively, shooting 8-11 from the floor and grabbing five offensive boards. Hibbert wrapped up with a 16 point, 12 rebound double double go to along with three blocks. In a game without much defense, and in a game where Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond spent the entire night cleaning up what seemed like each other's misses (accounting for all 12 of Detroit's offensive boards), Hibbert did come up with some nice plays, including a late block on Drummond that would've given Detroit life in the waning seconds.
David West was 7-10 for 14 points with seven boards and Rodney Stuckey also contributed with eight points on 4-6 shooting. Hill's free throw shooting cost Indiana points at the line, with the team going 10-18 overall, but the shooting from the floor kept it from showing up in an ugly way late. The Pacers and Pistons each hit 12 three pointers, in a game where no lead felt safe due to the shooting abilities of the other team.
Indiana scored 66 second half points to help lead them to the victory, but it's impossible to look at this as anything but a one night fluke given Indiana's offensive play in general. But if they can muster up a similar performance on Friday, that may give them a chance against the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers, who have won 11 straight and finally have LeBron James looking like LeBron James.