The Indiana Pacers moved back into the win column with a home win against the Philadelphia 76ers, using a solid second half to make it a comfortable win to boot. The Pacers built leads in the first half, but struggled to build on them, allowing the Sixers to push back each time.
In the third, Philadelphia did just that, climbing to within six at 55-49. The Pacers responded with a 13-0 run to move ahead 19. The 76ers closed the gap to within 11 early in the fourth, but Indiana had another 18-4 run to close the game out. Indiana won big, but weren’t without a number of faults for the game. They struggled to build on their leads early due to misses around the rim. The Pacers shot just 42.7% for the game, and shot under 50% in the restricted area.
Nearly half of the team’s misses came from Thaddeus Young, who was a woeful 0-7, all of those shots coming around the rim. Young’s wrist has really done a number on his effectiveness, with him trying to make plays with his right hand to compensate. He did hit both of his free throws, a rarity of its own.
Despite the inconsistencies with shooting and the struggles of Young and Rodney Stuckey (1-8 for two points), the Pacers did find success as a team with seven players reaching double figures. They were led by Paul George, who scored 21 points, working his way to the line for eight attempts. He did miss a pair, as has been his own struggle lately, but the Pacers worked their way to the line all night, doubling up the Sixers 29-14 in free throw attempts.
Myles Turner led the game on the glass with 16 rebounds, securing four of Indiana’s 12 offensive rebounds. Turner scored 17 as part of his double double effort with a pair of blocks. Al Jefferson also had four offensive rebounds in a rare showcase of his skills, as he scored 14 points. Unfortunately, Jefferson left the game with an ankle sprain, but with x-rays coming back negative, Jefferson wasn’t too worried about the severity.
Stuckey also left the game with a left knee injury. He didn’t return the game, but also didn’t go back to the locker room. With injuries nagging Stuckey all season, it’s hard to say where he stands moving forward. Him being out for any period of time would force further roster adjustments, bringing Joe Young into the fold, who didn’t offer much confidence in his late game run.
It would put heavier reliance on Aaron Brooks in the second unit, but he looked better tonight, scoring 10 on 4-5 shooting. C.J. Miles also reached double figures with 10, picking up six rebounds and hitting a pair of threes. It was the one that didn’t count that proved to be his most impressive shot.
Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis found success in the back court, with Teague scoring a quiet 16 points and Ellis scoring 10. Both had a pair of steals as the game worked towards Indiana’s favor with increased defensive hustle. While sloppy at times, the Pacers were solid most of the night in terms of energy, especially when compared to the boundless effort of the Sixers.
That will be paramount when the team wraps up their three game homestand on Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pacers, who haven’t won back to back games since February 6, have stumbled into a real opportunity to determine their postseason positioning. With both Atlanta and Milwaukee losing tonight, the Pacers move into a tie for 5th in the East, though tiebreakers keep them in 7th.
Miami also lost late, giving Indiana a two game cushion in 7th. Having flexibility within the standings will also be important because Miami’s loss tonight was Boston’s win, moving the Celtics into a tie for first in the East. Being in the six or seven seed range has been a surefire way to avoid Cleveland in the first two rounds, but Boston is looking to change that, creating extra incentive to keep the 5th seed in play.
Of course, at 37-36, the eternally average Pacers are going to have to sort some things out to make that push a reality, especially as injury concerns are in the process of gutting Indiana’s already questionable depth. Whatever kind of push they have in them will continue Tuesday against Minnesota.