An efficient first half, an ugly second half, and a late fourth quarter push summed up the Indiana Pacers and their 94-74 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite the final score indicating a blowout, it wasn't until the final minutes that Indiana put the game away, unable to shake the 76ers, who were as close as seven at the 6:48 of the fourth quarter, but the Pacers held Philadelphia scoreless to close the game on a 13-0 run.
The Pacers were in good shape early, jumping out to a 15-7 lead, but Philadelphia found life on an 11-2 run to take an 18-17 lead. Indiana regained control on a 6-0 run, but Ish Smith kept the Sixers on the tail of the Pacers heading into the second quarter, with Indiana leading 27-24. Rodney Stuckey scored seven of his 10 second quarter points early, but Indiana was unable to break through into a double figure lead with Philly keeping the game at eight points.
Luis Scola finally put Indiana into a double figure lead, scoring five in a 13-2 run that pushed Indiana ahead by 17, giving them a fair cushion heading into the break. Indiana lead 59-46 at the break, but left a lot on the floor late in the quarter with sloppy play. The struggles to close the half would crop up for the entire second half for both teams as the game came to a screeching halt.
Through the third quarter, Philly chipped away at the 13-point lead, cutting it to seven late in the quarter, getting big play from Robert Covington, who had 10 of his 12 in the third quarter before suffering an elbow injury that forced him out of the game. With their best option out of the game, the Sixers struggled finding points, scoring just two down the stretch in the third, though Indiana's own offensive struggles helped Philadelphia stay in the game.
In the fourth, the Pacers clamped down defensively, using a 6:48 scoring drought from the Sixers to close the game out. After scoring 59 points in the first half, Indiana had just 35 in the second half, winding up at 40.8% for the night after a 50% first half. It didn't much matter against a Philadelphia team that struggled scoring themselves, putting up just 28 points in the second half.
The Pacers had 14 turnovers, though it felt like more. They minimized their damage in turnovers by allowing just nine points off turnovers, while themselves forcing 18 turnovers and scoring 20 points. It proved the biggest advantage for the Pacers, who held a +8 advantage from the line, shooting 19-25 while Philly went just 11-17. The Sixers shot 34.5% on the night, expounded by them missing their last 11 shots.
After getting pretty well worked by Nerlens Noel in their last meeting, Roy Hibbert had a much better game, scoring 14 points and grabbing 15 rebounds for his 14th double double on the season. HIbbert also had a night of five blocks, the seventh time he reached that mark. Hibbert had five offensive boards, holding Noel to 2-8 shooting, though Noel did come up with a 10 point, 12 rebound double double of his own.
While Hibbert had 15 boards, one big struggle Indiana had on the night was corralling rebounds. They won the rebounding battle, but Noel had five of Philly's 10, and it seemed like they were active in not only stealing rebounds, but forcing loose balls that created opportunities. The Sixers had eight steals on the night, but their own sloppiness minimized whatever advantage their extra hustle may have created.
George Hill led Indiana with 17 points, shooting 8-16 with nine rebounds and a team best four assists. Hill's return continues to be a big difference maker for the Pacers, who improve to 10-3 when he starts. Indiana is 8-2 in their last 10, the best mark in the league, and were 7-2 in February, also the best mark in the league. While Hill isn't the only difference in Indiana's improved play, he's playing at the highest level of his career in his limited sample size.
It's helping to not only give Indiana some much needed punch, but has pushed the rotation around in a way that benefits players like Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey was an offensive punch for Indiana in the first half, scoring 12, but went scoreless in the second half. But Stuckey still involved himself in the game with five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Luis Scola led the bench with 15 points, continuing his high energy play on 7-12 shooting, with six rebounds and three steals. Indiana's bench led the way for Indiana, outscoring Philadelphia's bench 48-33. Ian Mahinmi went a perfect 3-3, but was hampered early with foul trouble, while C.J. Watson scored eight on 2-6 shooting. C.J. Miles scored seven off the bench, a late starting scratch due to his foot.
The win moved Indiana back into the 8th seed against the idle Nets, holding serve with Charlotte and gaining a game on Boston, who had a late loss against Golden State. The Pacers will be off until Wednesday, but will be scoreboard watching before hosting the New York Knicks, who are winners of two straight.