A rocky third quarter turned into a confident fourth for the Indiana Pacers, putting away the Dallas Mavericks in the closing minutes to pick up their fourth win in their last five. The Pacers never looked back after taking a 31-29 lead into the second quarter, pushing their lead into double figures thanks to hot shooting from three point range.
The Pacers made 12 of their first 23 attempts, finding extensive success in trailing threes to build their double figure lead with Myles Turner getting run with the bench unit. The starters’ return didn’t quite have the same push, but the Pacers were able to hold their advantage when the game began to go through a real slog.
Beyond three point shooting, Indiana also kept the Mavericks from capitalizing off of their miscues, committing just two turnovers in the first half. When that number began to climb in the second half (paired with a massive offensive glass advantage for Dallas early in the third), the Mavs began to slowly inch back into the game, cutting the lead to six late in the quarter.
The Pacers, to their credit, did a good job minimizing the damage of opposing runs. Dallas had used a 7-0 run to get back into the game, outscoring Indiana 16-5 to make it a six-point game, but six straight points, including two layups from Domantas Sabonis, doubled the lead almost instantly.
Kristaps Porzingis was a force for a Dallas team missing Luka Doncic with a sore back, guiding Dallas back in the third, capping a 14-point quarter with a deep transition three, making it a bit of a rocky 82-75 Pacers advantage heading into the fourth. When Tim Hardaway Jr. opened the fourth with a heavily contested three, it appeared that the Pacers would be in for another tightly contested fourth.
A couple of encouraging things really shifted that, however. T.J. McConnell kept the Pacers on the scoreboard with a pair of huge jumpers and Caris LeVert pulled up for a tough elbow three off of an Edmond Sumner offensive rebound to push the lead back up to nine. Nate Bjorkgren was also quick to get Turner back into the lineup with 9:15 remaining to keep the defensive pressure on.
The Pacers kept the lead at nine when Malcolm Brogdon returned, hitting a big elbow three of his own to push the lead back into double figures. Once Brogdon returned, the Pacers outscored Dallas 16-4, closing out a road win in impressive fashion. All the more encouraging: while it was Brogdon and Sabonis doing the bulk of the scoring, it wasn’t through their labored two-man game, but through McConnell, closing the game out in favor of Justin Holiday.
Brogdon off the ball was a big part of the positive Pacer moments tonight as he continues to shoot exceptionally well. He led the way with 22 points on 7-13 shooting, going 6-9 from three point range. LeVert struggled shooting the ball at 4-14, but simply taking reps as the primary ball handler opened things up for Indiana’s offense, even speeding up Brogdon at times he did have possession.
The result, thanks to the hot three point shooting, was 16 assists on 19 made field goals to start the game. It’s no surprise the number of assisted buckets dropped when the offense began to bog down in the third quarter, but it was a solid all around night of ball movement, finishing with 26 assists, Sabonis being the leader with five.
Sabonis also had 22 points, picking up a team high 15 rebounds. The Pacers were led by Sabonis in the second half on the glass, outrebounding Dallas on the offensive end 12-3 after the Mavs had started the second half up 12-1. Sabonis worked his way to the line for 12 attempts, making his last six after splitting his first six.
Indiana’s defense was forced to not only contend with tough shot making from the likes of Hardaway Jr., but also a locked-in showing from Porzingis. Even still, they held the Mavs to just 41% shooting for the game, with Porzingis finishing 12-28, 0-4 in the fourth. Two of those misses came at the rim when Turner blocked both of his attempts at the rim.
Turner finished with seven blocks on the game, four on Porzingis, absolutely dominating the defensive side of the ball when he was in the game. Goga Bitadze also offered up some big stops with three of his own, including a crucial block on Hardaway Jr. early in the fourth when the Mavs still had eyes on a comeback.
The bench unit in the first half was a huge part of Indiana’s ability to push the lead to double figures and help maintain it. The three point shooting didn’t hurt of course. Doug McDermott hit his first four attempts and Sumner hit two of his own to build the lead, each finishing in double figures with 12 & 10. McConnell finished with 10 of his own, living on his short-range jumper, picking up crucial baskets at a time Indiana could’ve gone either direction.
Unfortunately, the Pacers did suffer a loss after McDermott left the game after turning his ankle late in the third. He immediately staggered back to the locker room, not returning. It wasn’t an encouraging ankle turn either, though the severity is unknown at the moment.
The Pacers improve to 21-23 with the win, staying at two games back of the 4th place Hornets despite being in 9th. They currently trail Miami by percentage points for 8th after Charlotte handed the Heat their sixth straight loss. The Pacers will have one more road game before locking into a more home-heavy schedule, facing the Washington Wizards on Monday night.