Paul George has been a steadying force for the Indiana Pacers when they’ve needed to close out wins and tonight he came through again, scoring 15 straight points for the Pacers in a 118-111 comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pacers may not have needed the comeback with a little bit of defense in the first three quarters, but better late than never, the defense came through when it mattered to hold Portland to 13 points in the fourth.
Portland had their way with the Pacers in the first half, scoring 44 first quarter points and jumping up by as many as 20 in the second quarter, but the Pacers stayed alive in large part thanks to the efforts of Thaddeus Young, who was relegated to “unsung hero” status despite scoring 24 points.
Young hit six three pointers on the night, a career high, each one necessary to keep the Pacers in the same zip code at the scorching Blazers. But in addition to the threes, Young came through with crucial hustle plays late, including key offensive boards and a block on night where he had three of each, totaling nine rebounds overall.
George would be the hero of the night, and justifiably so. He finished with a season high 37 with the 15 straight in the fourth quarter. George was 13-27 on the night with five threes despite a tough start shooting the ball. He had five rebounds, three assists, and three steals as he imposed his will on the game to push the Pacers back to .500.
No one was stopping @Yg_Trece in the 4th quarter. pic.twitter.com/HZoGZC3Bst— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 11, 2016
The Blazers got big nights from their star backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Each had 19 point quarters to keep Portland up by double figures, but unlike Indiana’s loss in Portland, the supporting cast wasn’t there for the Blazers, as nobody broke double figures for Portland outside of McCollum’s 34 and Lillard’s 33.
The Pacers on the other hand got five double figure performances, including a 14 point, eight rebound effort from Myles Turner, who along with Young, had three blocks. Al Jefferson led the bench with 10 and Rodney Stuckey’s six points came in big moments on a three point play and a three pointer.
Monta Ellis had 10 points in the first half on 2-3 shooting, working his way to the line successfully, dishing five assists (second for the night behind Jeff Teague’s six). Ellis left the game at halftime with a groin injury, but despite the comeback late, there wasn’t a noticeable uptick upon his departure with his replacement Glenn Robinson III, who allowed McCollum to have a monster third quarter.
Robinson’s time did not increase with him being late on defense constantly, instead those minutes went to Stuckey, who played out the game as the Pacers proceeded to outscore the Blazers 33-17 for the remainder of the game. A Robinson for Ellis starting lineup swap may not be as sound as tonight suggested, but a Stuckey for Ellis starting lineup swap may not be as much of a stretch as perception suggested.
With or without Ellis for Monday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, the important thing is that the Pacers build on what they did tonight. This season has been marred by inconsistency on an unparalleled level as the Pacers sit at .500 for the 10th time in 24 games.
That doesn’t excuse the inconsistency, but they’ve shown the ability to be a solid team and moving beyond that inconsistency is key as the second quarter of the season begins to settle in. Even more so, with a three game road trip looming, the Pacers can ill-afford to give up valuable home wins with a 3-7 road record.