Indiana Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno called it in his halftime interview with Jeremiah Johnson:
.@Pacers assistant Bill Bayno says the first team that asserts itself defensively will emerge victorious tonight. #DETvsIND #GoPacers pic.twitter.com/qUfUvxkNGa— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) February 5, 2017
The Detroit Pistons led at halftime 58-56 in a back and forth game. Stops were a premium and Bayno recognized the obvious: the first team to find defense would come away with the win and the Pacers did just that, dominating the second half defensively en route to a 49-26 second half.
In the second half, the Pistons had more turnovers (17) than field goals (eight), opening the door for the Pacers to build and maintain a double figure lead on a 12-0 third quarter run. Indiana outscored Detroit 21-4 in points off of turnovers, recording 11 steals in a big team effort without Thaddeus Young.
As impressive as the total team effort was, the Pacers would’ve had a much tougher time without Lavoy Allen putting together the best game of his NBA career. Allen filled out the stat sheet with an 18 point, 11 rebound double double, creating second chance opportunities with five offensive rebounds, getting a pair of steals and a block. Allen was a threat offensively with his shot, hitting five of his eight field goals on long jumpers.
All five starters reached double figures, led by Paul George, who scored 21 points on 9-14 shooting. George led the way for Indiana behind the arc with three three pointers, putting together a quietly effective game for Indiana. Jeff Teague, Myles Turner, and C.J. Miles all put together 13 point nights with Teague dishing seven assists and Turner pulling in six rebounds.
The only blemish, even in the second half, was Indiana’s struggles closing quarters. Detroit capitalized on a big five point swing late in the fourth to turn a 14-point deficit into 10 to end the third. After the first possession of the fourth quarter, Detroit trailed by only eight points.
Al Jefferson scored 13 off the bench, but there was a continued struggle from the second unit in finding easy points beyond Jefferson’s contributions. Monta Ellis (three points) and Aaron Brooks (five) had their entire scoring output in the fourth quarter while Glenn Robinson III had just four. There were contributions beyond scoring, however; Ellis and Brooks had nice assists early in the fourth and Robinson had six boards and Ellis had five.
The Pacers push their winning streak to six games for the first time since December 2015, but more importantly, with the win over Detroit, they move to 5 1⁄2 games over Detroit and five games over 8th place Charlotte. With the schedule immediately set to become more challenging, building a cushion on the bottom of the playoff picture is important, especially with the uncertainty of Young’s timetable.
While the six game winning streak is only the third best winning streak in the East, the Pacers are playing their best basketball of the season without question. The Pacers have quietly moved into the top half of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That defensive improvement will be important to put on display when Indiana returns to action on Monday hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder.