After nearly giving the game away early in the fourth quarter, the Indiana Pacers stepped up in a big way in Winning Time, overcoming a huge momentum shift in favor of the Phoenix Suns to escape with a thrilling victory. The Pacers led by 13 in the third quarter, but miscues allowed Phoenix to keep the game in reach, capitalizing on an Indiana team that looked gassed, jumping out to a four-point lead on a 21-4 run.
Domantas Sabonis finally put the Pacers on the board nearly three minutes into the fourth. While that wasn’t enough to halt Phoenix’s push, Indiana was able to chip away at the lead point by point behind clutch shooting from Doug McDermott. McDermott would score nine of the next 12 for the Pacers, putting them ahead 95-94 with five minutes left.
The Pacers would push the lead as high as three as both teams traded punches down the stretch. With the game knotted at 101, Darren Collison would drive on Devin Booker, drawing attention from Deandre Ayton, which allowed Myles Turner to plant himself from beyond the arc. Turner’s confidence was on display on the release, the long arc proving true for the go-ahead three.
It would’ve been nice had that been the capper, but Booker refused to let the Suns go quietly, drilling a three on the other end to tie the game. Back on offense, Turner again played a key role, finding Bojan Bogdanovic in the corner for another go-ahead three. This time, the Pacers would come up with the stop, with Turner contesting Booker just enough to force an in and out three attempt from the Suns guard.
As thrilling as this one was at the end, the Pacers allowed it to get to that point with costly mistakes throughout the game. Indiana kept Phoenix at arm’s length until the end of the third, but were never able to put the game away. The Suns were able to blitz the Pacers off turnovers, scoring 21 points, though Indiana had just 12 turnovers on the game.
The Pacers also allowed 15 second chance points to the Suns, which through the early stages of the fourth was a big part of Phoenix’s success in completing their comeback. It would be the second chance points that would eventually work in Indiana’s favor, however, as they scored eight in the fourth quarter to help them even out the difference the Suns had built.
Domantas Sabonis had four of his seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, finishing with a game high 16 rebounds. Sabonis also scored a team high 21 points, leading the way for the Pacers at the line with 7-8 shooting. Sabonis was joined by his new best friend Doug McDermott, who had his own 21-point outing, hitting five of seven threes and again working fabulously with Sabonis to share three of their four assists.
The two scored 42 of the bench’s 46 points, but worked to get themselves in great position, especially McDermott, who again showed out when given the opportunity to shine. The backup backcourt of Aaron Holiday and Cory Joseph struggled shooting at just 1-11 combined, but they had nine total assists (seven from Joseph), all but one going to McBonis. They also had no turnovers.
Four of the five starters reached double figures, led by Turner with 16 points. Turner filled up the stat sheet, pulling in a season high 13 rebounds and sending away five blocks. Turner was a big part of Indiana’s defensive identity. In particular, that was in limiting the effectiveness of Ayton, the overall #1 pick from last summer’s draft. Ayton was 6-11, but all five misses came at the rim.
That wasn’t the only misery subjected on Ayton, who was on the wrong side of Bruin on Wildcat violence dished up by Collison. Collison was just 3-9 on the night, but all three makes came against Ayton, including a pair of tough jumpers and the league’s highlight of the night with Collison sending Ayton to the floor.
Thaddeus Young scored 13 on the night, going 5-10 from the floor and even hitting a three and both of his free throws. Any extra push from Young was welcome on a night when Bogdanovic was hampered with early foul trouble and struggled to find himself offensively, bowing to McDermott for much of the night before hitting the big corner three in the fourth.
Tyreke Evans was the only starter not in double figures, scoring eight. Evans was 3-10 shooting on the night, going 1-8 after hitting his first two three point attempts. Evans struggled with ball control thoughout the night, committing five turnovers, including a brain freeze play late in the first half when a delayed pass to Collison turned into an easy Suns breakaway bucket. Evans did have four steals on the night, leading to five of Indiana’s 16 points off turnovers.
Tonight’s win was quite the impressive one when looking at the overall picture. The Pacers allowed the Suns to hang around and looked beat when Phoenix finally capitalized to take the lead. For Indiana to dig deep and come away with this one on big time shot making when they looked weighed down being on the second night of a back-to-back makes this a notable win. It also moves the Pacers to 4-0 on the second night of a back-to-back.
The win also clinches at least a .500 record in this West Coast trip, but it’s also a good time for them to get greedy. This same back-to-back was a 2-0 start for the Pacers last year before dropping their next two. One of those losses came against the Los Angeles Lakers, who will be next up for Indiana on Thursday. The late tip will be the first chance for Pacers fans to see familiar friends and foes in a new setting, matching up against Lance Stephenson and LeBron James.