Despite a notable lack of similarities in playing style, the fourth quarter debut for the Indiana Pacers was eerily reminiscent of last year's Pacers team. Entering ahead by nine, the Pacers saw the entirety of that lead disappear in the first two minutes, with the Dallas Mavericks tying the game at 94, breaking through for their first lead a minute later.
Indiana wouldn't allow the Mavs to go up by more than one, going back up by two in the closing minute. After a series of bad passes, Indiana would hold possession with 15 seconds, sending Jeff Teague to the line with a chance to ice the game away. Unfortunately, Teague would miss one of his three free throws on the night, giving Indiana a 115-112 lead. That three point lead was just enough to allow Harrison Barnes a wide open three pointer to send the game into overtime.
Whether lack of trust or a bad read, Paul George rotated onto Dirk Nowitzki, who was already contested on the arc, allowing Barnes a perfect look for the game tying three. Unfortunately for the Pacers, it wasn't the only bad defensive decision of the night. After a solid first quarter, where Indiana forced turnovers and held Dallas to 22 points on 37.5% shooting, the Mavericks broke 30 points in each of the remaining three quarters.
The Pacers defense proved itself a concern in the final three quarters with the second unit struggling to maintain the leads the starters had built (despite solid stretches from C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey, who each scored eight). The starting lineup performed better, but still had their struggles in the backcourt defensively. Deron Williams lit up Jeff Teague for 25 points, appearing more vintage D-Will than Brooklyn D-Will.
So for a team that could be as defensively woeful as Indianapolis's other major professional franchise, an extra five minutes to expose that defense isn't a particularly ideal situation. Monta Ellis and George would keep Indiana in the lead, but they couldn't prevent Dallas from responding, keeping Indiana's advantage at a razor thin one-point margin.
Up 119-118, George would drive the line, dishing out to Myles Turner, who hit a late shot clock three pointer. The Pacers forced an ensuing turnover, setting George up for a three of his own. Indiana would cap the game-sealing 8-0 run on an emphatic Turner jam in transition, sending Indiana to 1-0 on the season with a 130-121 overtime victory.
Turner's jam finished off a tremendous 30-point night. Turner was 13-19 from the floor, helping Indiana to win the rebounding battle with 16 boards on the night. Turner had six offensive rebounds on a night Indiana as a team had eight. He also had four blocks. Lavoy Allen and Al Jefferson were the only other Pacers to record offensive rebounds and blocks in the game at one apiece.
Indiana's bench did not see a double figure scorer despite eight point nights from Miles and Stuckey, and it was a short leash on both Joe Young and Glenn Robinson III that had a part in that. Young played briefly as the backup point guard, with Robinson going 0-3 in his regular season debut. Robinson looked overwhelmed tonight, which is an unfortunate turn of events following his impressive preseason performance.
The best shots of the night for Turner came outside of the paint, but he scored over half of his points in the paint with 16. Indiana stormed out early thanks to their ability to play around the basket, finishing with 52 on the night. The advantage inside helped Indiana weather a unique game from the Mavericks from deep. Dallas hit 18 three pointers on the night, but had 48 attempts to get there.
It was the second-most three point attempts in NBA history, with the 1995-96 Mavericks putting up 49 in a game in March 1996. Indiana's defense did little to chase Dallas off of the arc, but where Dallas hit three in bulk, Indiana's three pointers came efficiently. Indiana finished the night 10-19 from deep, including a 4-5 night from Paul George. George had 25 points on 14 attempts.
It didn't feel much like George was a key part of the offense tonight, though he did have six assists to go with eight rebounds of his own. Part of that had to do with Turner's night, but Teague himself had more attempts than George with 15. Teague had 20 points and eight assists, getting a busy night's work in at the free throw line, going 10-13. Teague's game was up and down, not only with the defensive struggles, but with some decision making late in the game on a turnover that was a result of him pounding the air out of the ball in the corner.
All five starters reached double figures, including a very good night from Monta Ellis, who celebrated his birthday with 19 points on 7-11 shooting to go with seven assists, seven rebounds, and three steals. While the Ellis/Teague backcourt may have its struggles, a less ball-dominate Ellis benefited him tonight, with him being set up to succeed rather than force the matter as he did early in the overtime period as Indiana needed to find the best shot against Dallas's defense.
It's no surprise Indiana's best offensive play came in pushing the tempo. They succeeded early and often and it was when the Pacers found the game slowed down that they allowed the Mavericks signs of life. A particularly lengthy third quarter saw Dallas again and again chip away at Indiana's lead, but a pair of timely 6-0 runs kept the game at arm's length for Indiana heading into the fourth.
The strengths and weaknesses of the Pacers will become more evident as the season progresses, but it's always better to see flaws in a winning effort than a losing one, especially when you can offset those flaws with great individual efforts as the ones Turner and George showed in overtime. At 1-0, Indiana will take to the road for the first of two as they face the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.