On the same day as John Gonzalez’s fantastic feature on the Indiana Pacers and their uninspiring season, they went out and something that hadn’t happened to the Golden State Warriors since Steve Kerr became their head coach: they swept them. So maybe their win over the Warriors 10 days ago could have something of an asterisk, but that was not the case tonight when the Pacers absolutely outclassed the defending champs.
Despite not being must-see TV, the Pacers managed just fine, going toe-to-toe with the Warriors in the first quarter, holding a slim 27-26 lead after one. The lead held through the first half of the second quarter when the Pacers forced a turnover, leading to a Lance Stephenson dunk in the fast break.
That dunk kickstarted an 18-6 Pacers run that put them up double figures. Indiana would take an 11-point lead into the half, scoring 62. That wouldn’t be the end of Indiana’s push, outscoring Golden State 9-2 to start the third, jumping up by 18. The Pacers would go on to lead by as many as 22, taking a 97-77 lead into the fourth after outscoring the Warriors 70-51 in the middle two quarters.
Golden State looked to make one more push to start the fourth, outscoring Indiana 10-0 to open. Kevin Durant played his most aggressive in scoring the first six points against the Pacers bench, forcing Nate McMillan to make a quick switch to get his own starters back in the game.
That of course included Victor Oladipo, who proceeded to have one of his greatest stretches of the season in steadying the ship and ultimately winning the game for the Pacers. Indiana outscored the Warriors 17-1 over the next four minutes and Oladipo had his hand in everything.
Oladipo had two assists, a pair of steals, ripped the ball from Durant to force a (winning) jump ball, and put down the capper on the run with a pick six dunk. The only point the Warriors scored in the entire run came courtesy of Oladipo, who drew the team together by drawing his first technical foul of the year on a missed call.
The Pacers came through in a big way thanks to the infectious energy of Oladipo, throwing down dunks and hitting big threes to run away from the Warriors. In the run, the Pacers shot 7-10 and hit three of their four threes. Golden State meanwhile went 0-6 with four turnovers. Klay Thompson in particular went 0-3 in the stretch was the Pacers did something unfamiliar: they held him scoreless in the second half.
Turnovers were a big advantage for the Pacers, leading to 18 points. That was the same they surrendered, but the Pacers were able to get more in transition, outscoring the Warriors 29-10 in fast break points. Indiana was able to take full advantage of Golden State being a step slow defensively all night, allowing the Pacers to also win the rebounding battle after not doing so well in their previous matchup.
The Pacers also had 32 assists, helping them to 53.8% shooting on the night, including a lights out 15-29 from three point range. All 10 players within the rotation dished out an assist as the ball moved beautifully, with unselfish decisions rewarding players with open shots throughout the game.
No one maximized more from the ball movement than Bojan Bogdanovic, who led all scorers with 28 points on 11-13 shooting. Bogdanovic tied a season high with six three pointers, doing so his most efficiently, finishing 6-7 from deep. Four different players assisted Bogdanovic on nine of his field goals though seven of those were assisted by Darren Collison and Thaddeus Young.
Collison continued his positive shooting from Tuesday, finishing with 15 points on 6-8 shooting. Young scored 16 on 7-11, leading the Pacers with five offensive rebounds, leading to nine Pacers points. Off the bench, Trevor Booker had three offensive rebounds himself, leading to four points. It was Booker’s hustle that really won the night with him getting on the floor to find Oladipo for the fast break dunk, then revealing his playoff shoe game.
Domantas Sabonis was the fifth Pacer in double figures with 13 points, pulling in nine rebounds to lead a solid bench effort against a young Warriors second unit. Lance Stephenson went 2-2 from three point range to go with six rebounds and three dimes and while Cory Joseph struggled shooting, he did tally a bench high four assists. Even Joe Young got involved in garbage time with five points on a dunk and three pointer.
Elsewhere, the Pacers continue to win without reward in the standings as Cleveland staged a 17-point fourth quarter comeback against Washington to win their fifth straight. This keeps Cleveland two games up on the Pacers with just three to play, putting the three seed virtually out of reach.
They will have a chance to gain a game on either Cleveland or Philadelphia tomorrow night, however as the two teams face each other with the loser almost certainly setting up to be Indiana’s first round opponent. The Pacers meanwhile can still keep alive a chance for home court advantage in that series with a win on the second night of a back-to-back, though they’ll do so in a daunting task against the Toronto Raptors in the North.