The Indiana Pacers made good on their desire to stand pat at the trade deadline for a night, staging an impressive come-from-behind victory on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the first 45 minutes, however, it appeared as if the Pacers were on pace for another late game loss after fighting back to tie the game at 82-82 near the halfway point of the quarter.
A big response by the Thunder, fueled by Russell Westbrook (23 points and 18 assists) and Kevin Durant (28 points), put Oklahoma City on top 93-86 with 2:47 remaining in the game. It was George Hill who cut the game to four with a responding three pointer, his third of the night, as Monta Ellis pulled up for a tough three of his own to bring the Pacers to within a point.
The barrage wasn't over, as Myles Turner came up with his first career three pointer in the corner and Ellis drilled the fourth consecutive for the Pacers, putting Indiana ahead 98-95 with 18.8 seconds remaining. Durant made it interesting by hitting a three with five seconds remaining, but Paul George went 3-4 from the line in the final seconds to give Indiana just enough of a cushion to hold on for the 101-98 victory.
The win, an impressive one out of the All-Star Break, was a great lift for the Pacers, whose long history of woeful late game performances has made life in the Eastern Conference slightly more complicated than it otherwise need be. But the nine day layoff can hopefully jump start the Pacers, who entered the game coming off their worst performance of the year against Charlotte at home.
The Pacers were led on the night by Monta Ellis, who scored 27 points on 10-16 shooting, including a trio of three pointers. His two late were of course huge, but both came with the ball, a rather unique situation given the general lack of success Ellis has had on three pointers that haven't come from from assists. But that was the zone Ellis was in tonight, and it was one of the rare times when not only was Ellis a force, but Indiana also came away with a win.
Ellis was helped in a big way from Ian Mahinmi and Myles Turner, who both reached double figures, with Mahinmi scoring 19 points and pulling in 11 rebounds for his double double as Turner sent away six shots while scoring 16 of his own, including his first three pointer. It was another night where Indiana got contributions without getting contributions from Paul George, who shot just 6-14, but posted a 22 point, 10 assist double double of his own.
The problem for Indiana came with their bench. While the early lack of success from the second unit wasn't overmatched by the Oklahoma City reserves, Enes Kanter came away with 13 on the night, as the Thunder bench outscored Indiana's 26-8. Joe Young led the bench with four on 2-6 shooting. George Hill really struggled shooting the ball at 3-11, but with all three coming from beyond the arc, he was able to compliment his nine points with nine assists and 11 rebounds.
With Westbrook stealing the All-Star Game MVP from Paul George and Durant picking one possession to play defense to keep George out of the All-Star record books for most points scored, it was a nice, far more meaningful bit of revenge to push Indiana into the win column. At 29-25, the Pacers keep a game between them and Charlotte and Chicago and push 2.5 games up on the 9th seed Detroit.
Indiana will return to Eastern Conference action when they face the Orlando Magic on Sunday as part of their Florida two-step. Getting this win is a nice first step, but for Indiana to fully justify their wish to remain in tact after the trade deadline, not showing signs of a letdown against a young Orlando team is the next step towards making a big push in the season's final 28 games.