The Indiana Pacers needed their blistering start against the Philadelphia 76ers to hold on late, an anxious conclusion to an otherwise important win. Indiana jumped all over Philadelphia to start, going ahead 33-12 late in the first with Paul George scoring 17 first quarter points.
The Pacers appeared primed to cruise to victory, but the energy of the Sixers made things difficult for Indiana. The Sixers began to employ a trapping half court defense, discombobulating the Pacers into costly turnovers right back into the game. The Pacers dominated the points off turnovers category, but despite scoring 32 points off of 18 Philly turnovers, the Sixers in turn found 17 points against Indiana miscues, including 10 steals.
Philadelphia also found success attacking the rim at will, outscoring Indiana 28-17 at the free throw line, while hitting 13 threes to Indiana’s five. Nine of those came from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Ft. Wayne Mad Ants and Kentucky product Alex Poythress. It all added up to a game that was much closer than it needed be, though the Sixers never came closer than five points.
Part of that was due to Indiana’s near 60% shooting for the game, but big time play from both George and Thaddeus Young led the way to keep the Pacers ahead. George finished with a game high 27 points, pushing Indiana back into double figures in the third. A couple of dust-ups with Gerald Henderson however ultimately resulted in a George ejection, after Henderson elbowed George in the neck.
Just an eight-point game at the time of his ejection, Myles Turner came up with a couple of big buckets that pushed Indiana back up double figures and helped them weather the continued barrage of Poythress threes. Turner worked around foul trouble much of the night, but stayed engaged, scoring 18 points on 6-8 shooting with a 13 rebound double double.
Turner had three offensive rebounds on a night where the Pacers had 14 as a team. Young led the way with four, falling shy of a double double of his own with eight rebounds, but scoring 20 points on 10-15 shooting. Aside from hitting a jumper off of a broken play, Young did all of his damage at the rim, with six second chance points coming from his rebounds.
Indiana came up with 18 second chance points off of those 14 offensive rebounds, with Lavoy Allen pulling in four in limited minutes and Kevin Seraphin getting a pair himself. Seraphin stepped in big time for Turner, scoring a season high 17. Seraphin had a great two-man game with Lance Stephenson, who dished three of his five assists to Seraphin, showing the fruits of their practice session.
The win, Indiana’s fourth straight, pushes the Pacers back above .500 at 41-40, but still a step away from the playoffs. Chicago won by 47 points against Orlando and Miami overcame a double digit fourth quarter lead to defeat the Cavaliers in overtime. Both teams winning sets up a win or go home season finale at home for the Pacers against the Atlanta Hawks, who still control their own destiny.
The outcome is simple if Indiana wins on Wednesday: they’ll be in the playoffs. There are still a lot of scenarios within the final game, however, but it stands to be entirely meaningless if the Pacers lose. Indiana can move as high as 6th with a win if Atlanta loses tomorrow, but they can still drop to 9th with a loss against the Hawks and wins by both Chicago and Miami.
Suffice to say, it will be a tense 48 hours for fans as they wait to see what Pacers team will show up for the season finale.