After a rocky first quarter, the second unit of the Indiana Pacers began to push ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers with a 19-2 run, allowing the Pacers a rare double figure lead in recent outings. The Pacers ran with their newly constructed bench featuring Myles Turner, as he along with Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles traded buckets. While the Pacers offense was humming, the slight concern of Philadelphia three point shooting loomed.
Indiana led 61-49 at the break and pushed their lead to 18 early in the third, but the lead could've been much larger had it not been for the success of Philly's shooting. Indiana led 71-53 when the shooting of the 76ers became a real problem, with Isaiah Canaan and Jeremi Grant putting in four straight three pointers as part of a 15-1 run to bring Philly to within four. The Sixers would use the momentum to score nine straight to end the third, leading 77-74.
The Pacers were left scrambling, and things didn't improve for the fourth quarter. Despite an ability to score for Indiana, they struggled to get stops as Philadelphia led 98-96 with just under five minutes to go. Frank Vogel inserted George Hill and Monta Ellis following a timeout, and the two completely changed the complexion of the game.
With the game on the line, the starting backcourt was instrumental in the Pacers running off a 16-1 run that put the game in the books. The two scored seven, helped to force four consecutive Sixers turnovers, and each found Paul George in the corner for back breaking three pointers. It wasn't pretty, but Indiana did what they needed to do against Philadelphia: come away with a win by any means necessary.
Vogel's lineup changes included moving Myles Turner to the bench, starting Lavoy Allen, and playing small with Solomon Hill helped Turner to a solid game. The up and down style with Ty Lawson leading the charge allowed Turner an eight point, 10 rebound night. Overall, the huge advantage in bench scoring played into Indiana's favor, outscoring Philly's second unit 61-18.
Lawson's ability to find open looks did wonders on a night both Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles were on, dishing five assists. Stuckey had 17 points and five assists, shooting 6-7 from the field. Miles on the other hand was unconscious, scoring a game high 25 points on 9-14 with five three pointers for the first time since December 31. The play of the bench bailed out a starting unit that struggled to find their way for 43 minutes.
Paul George finished up with 20 points, eight rebound, and seven assists, but was just 5-15 from the field. He did get to the line nine times. And despite his size advantage, the Pacers were never able to really take advantage of Ian Mahinmi on offense, with the big man scoring nine points on 4-6 shooting, though he had three of Indiana's six offensive boards as part of a 12 rebound night.
The Pacers came way with a coup of sorts against Philadelphia, but a strong close did create some encouragement in hopes that they can do something they have been unable to do with any regularity, which is win on the road in the second night of a back-to-back. The Pacers are just 2-8 in said games and will face the rival New York Knicks, who won't shy away from playing spoiler.
Indiana improves to 40-36 with the win, which keeps them in 8th place after Detroit pulled out a late win over Chicago. The Pacers trail the Pistons by a half a game, but by means of Detroit, were able to build a two game lead over the Bulls. The downside in Detroit winning is that in the event of a three way tie for seventh, the Pacers will be now be the odd team out.
Even still, the "soft" schedule the Pacers have failed to take advantage of still favors Indiana in their last six games. The first of two games against the Knicks will bookend by home games against Brooklyn and a pair of games against Cleveland and Toronto, who could be locked into their respective seeds by the time the Pacers play either team. So there's still ample opportunity for the Pacers if they want it, the only question is whether they have that want moving forward.