The Indiana Pacers pulled back into the win column with a late win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It was hardly a comfortable win; the Lakers had a strong close to the first half, using that to fuel a second half comeback. The Lakers chipped away throughout the fourth, eventually taking a 106-105 lead in a wild fourth quarter.
The defensive struggles of the Pacers were on full display as the Lakers got a number of easy looks in the fourth to challenge Indiana. But after they fell behind, Indiana got a boost from Paul George, who scored the final 12 for the Pacers, including three crucial tough jumpers in a row (and a bonus block at the rim) to push them to a 115-108 victory.
George led the way for the Pacers with 30 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, but what will be remembered about his game tonight was that he came up when Indiana needed to get away with a win. George talked on FOX Sports Indiana after the game about how they couldn't afford to let games like this slip away when the playoff picture takes shape in late March.
With the defense in the state it's in, Indiana may need these kinds of runs from George more consistently. The Lakers shot 45% for the game, but had 57 second half points, forcing eight third quarter turnovers. Some of that came from the likes of Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams hitting shots, but it was often too easy for the Lakers to keep the pressure on the Pacers.
But while the defense continues to frustrate, the coaching rotations do not. Aaron Brooks made his season debut, giving the Pacers a tangible point guard option in the second unit. Brooks had eight points on 3-7 shooting, though there was some erratic play at times. In addition to Brooks's debut, Nate McMillan shortened the opening stint from the starters to give them more run in the maligned second quarter, but also played Monta Ellis with the bench.
Both worked well for Indiana in the first half, it gave the Pacers their first second quarter victory of the season, but also allowed Ellis to score 17 points as the Pacers eventually built a 16-point lead against the Lakers. C.J. Miles was a bright spot again for the Pacers, scoring 16 and 2-3 from three point range on a night the Pacers hit 10 of them from deep.
Thaddeus Young had 14 in a starting role and Jeff Teague continues to look for consistency with shooting the ball, but did hit his first three of the season, but was just 1-7. Teague forced a number of possessions offensively, something Indiana as a team did. Despite finishing with 115 points, there were a lot of plays that had no ball movement or ended in a questionable, or just plain bad shot.
Off the bench, Al Jefferson struggled again tonight, scoring four points on 2-6 shooting. His defense doesn't help Indiana much, but his shooting has lacked the same touch he had on display in the preseason. Kevin Seraphin on the other hand looked comfortable around the basket, giving the Pacers good minutes at the third center spot. It helped alleviate some foul issues from Myles Turner, who had just nine points on the night, though he worked his way to the line for seven attempts and had two blocks.
Indiana will take the win and hit the road for a divisional matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Indiana will enter 0-2 on the road, and both teams are in search of their first back-to-back win of the season after Milwaukee also secured a late win tonight.