The Pacers jumped out to a 15-3 lead thanks in part to the Pistons missing nine of their first ten shots, but free throws and extra opportunities allowed Detroit to keep the score from ballooning any further. Detroit’s bench would turn the game into their favor from there, eventually springing them into the lead in the third quarter.
The Indiana starters would control the game all night, except for the open to the third, in which the Pistons outhustled Indiana 13-4 out of the half to take a 63-62 lead. At that point, Paul George came up big for the Pacers, taking control of the game, having a hand in the game’s next nine points, setting the Pacers up to finish the third quarter on a 28-10 run.
In the fourth, the Pacers bench closed the game strong, with Monta Ellis scoring nine of his 12 points, getting positive contributions from their second unit after a rocky first half. Glenn Robinson III would put the game on ice, with six of his 11 coming in the game’s closing minutes.
The starters got to enjoy a rare fourth quarter off, with George finishing with a team high 21 points. George scored 13 points in the third quarter, shooting 4-5 in the quarter and finishing with eight rebounds. George had his other eight points in the first quarter, where he got plenty of help from the starters tonight.
Thaddeus Young had his best game since returning from injury, scoring 18 points on 9-14 shooting. His wrist is keeping him limited to the paint (though he did hit his first jumper since his return), but he showed the activity that the team missed without him, coming up with eight rebounds, three offensive.
C.J. Miles shot well, hitting four three pointers as part of his 15 points. He and George combined for seven of Indiana’s 11 three pointers. Ball movement was a big factor in setting Indiana up for good looks, finishing with 27 assists. The movement allowed Rodney Stuckey and Ellis to come up with three pointers of their own, with Stuckey leading the way with seven assists on the night.
Jeff Teague and Myles Turner weren’t big factors offensively with 10 and eight points respectively, but they each contributed to the success of the team, combining for 11 assists. Tonight was the rare glimpse of everything coming together for the Pacers. They had their struggles with the bench early and as well out of the half, but they responded well thanks in large part to their All-Star, George.
Part of that may have to do with playing the Pistons; the Pacers complete the four game sweep of Detroit, doing so while averaging 112 points per game. That kind of success hasn’t been as tangible against many other teams, which makes tonight’s game a nice win, in fact a key win with Detroit entering just one game back of Indiana, but these kinds of wins haven’t led to much.
Indiana responded well after falling behind, but it was offensive rebounding and second chance points that allowed the Pistons to take the lead, and those factors will continue to be problematic for the Pacers at times when they don’t bring maximum energy, as they did in response to falling behind.
The bright side is that the win gives Indiana a two game cushion over both Detroit and Chicago (who also lost tonight) in the sixth spot, but they’re not out of the woods yet. The Pacers will face the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday, a series that favors the Bucks 2-0. Milwaukee has won four straight and sit just two back in the loss column of the Pacers.