The final score of tonight's game between the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks will show Indiana building a seven-point halftime lead and running away with it in the fourth quarter for a 111-92 win. But with 5:54 left in the fourth, Indiana had missed nine straight shots and Atlanta has used a 15-2 run to erase what was once an 11-point advantage early in the fourth.
There was a sense of dread and déjà vu as the Pacers appeared to be fast-tracking themselves to another fourth quarter collapse, but a big George Hill three pushed Indiana back into the lead at 91-90, and Paul George drew a foul on a three point play to give Indiana a four point lead. Monta Ellis scored 11 of Indiana's next 13 as the Pacers blitzed Atlanta to close the game on a 23-2 run.
The win, Indiana's first against a non-Phoenix Suns opponent since January 8th, will hopefully provide a boost for Indiana. Not only in a "see what we can do when we put our minds to it" sense, but in a lineup sense. Myles Turner made his first NBA start tonight, and though early returns on the starting lineup was mixed, with Indiana using a late push to take a 27-24 lead at the end of one, the Pacers saw the lineup they will look to use in hopes of closing out wins instead of losses.
Turner impressed in his first start, carrying the load for the Pacers offensively in the first half with Paul George sitting with foul trouble, scoring 20 points on the night on 9-17 shooting. Turner had half of his points in each half, helping to push an impressive second quarter bench run with a pair of big buckets late in the second, and then coming alive in the third quarter with eights points in just over a minute of work.
The third quarter points from Turner were big, not only in giving Indiana some momentum to break a 63-63 tie and carry them to end the third, but his play early in the third looked eerily similar to his second half struggles on Tuesday. Seeing him break out of that was a big boost for the young rook, who also pulled in six rebounds in his 26 minutes of game action.
A lead the Pacers gained late in the first and would only relinquish for only 23 seconds was fortified by the bench unit in the second quarter. This included none other than C.J. Miles, who woke up from his shooting hibernation to hit back-to-back buckets part of his nine points. Miles was helped by Jordan Hill, who scored six straight Pacers points that pushed them towards a double figure lead.
But without the fourth quarter run, the positive play throughout the night would've been for naught. That's why George Hill's three to regain the Pacers advantage was such a key play. Hill was solid on the night, scoring 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including three threes. Hill went to work early in the fourth to give Indiana a double figure lead, and saved Indiana on his final three of the game.
Monta Ellis was the catalyst in pushing the game into the win column for the Pacers. Ellis had a game high 25 points, scoring 11 of those in two and a half minutes. Ellis hit four three pointers on the night with Indiana as a team finding consistency from deep, shooting 9-15 on the night and 48.7% on the night. The defense held in addition, with Atlanta shooting under 40% and the Pacers outrebounding Atlanta 47-32 with Lavoy Allen leading the way with 12 boards.
Getting a win late in the fourth quarter against a team not gunning for the top pick in the draft was a nice change of pace for Indiana, but the next step will be finding consistency with a final five of George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Myles Turner, and Ian Mahinmi. George was a non-factor much of the night, scoring just 11 points on 2-11, spending the entire first half in foul trouble, but coming up with a 7-7 night from the line to help Indiana out.
Next for the Pacers is a home game against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are one of many teams the Pacers should look to avenge recent losses to, but as illustrated by their home loss to Sacramento, that doesn't seem to be all that big of a driving element for the team. Though maybe the starting lineup addition of Myles Turner will be the boost Indiana needs to get back into the win column more consistently.