The Indiana Pacers moved back into the win column against the Houston Rockets thanks to a dominant first half, using it to withstand a furious Houston comeback after the break. The Pacers never trailed, leading by as many as nine in the first and quickly pushing that lead out to 22 to start the second quarter.
The Pacers opened the second quarter 14-2, led by Jeremy Lamb with five quick points in the stretch and Oshae Brissett, picking up his first real rotation minutes and putting them to great use, scoring five as well. Lamb had one of his best games in recent memory, scoring 18, hitting his first seven shots while Brissett finished with 10, shooting 4-5 with a three, also providing some solid defensive minutes in the first half.
The lead would hold throughout the rest of the half, with Lamb and Caris LeVert each hitting late threes to get the Pacers to the half up 75-55. They scored 42 in the quarter, led by Lamb with 13. With so much going well, it was unfortunate to see the game get put in reverse, with Houston cutting the lead in half as the quarter progressed.
Suddenly, the bad habits of the Pacers began to crop up, struggling with interior defense and failing completely on the glass to finish off the possessions they managed to force misses on. With an uptick in three point shooting, Houston put up 39 points in the quarter, trailing 106-94 after a Kevin Porter Jr. buzzer beating putback.
The Rockets continued to chip away at the lead, climbing as close as six halfway through the quarter, but the Pacers did do a good enough job offensively to keep Houston at bay. Even that wasn’t entirely smooth. After Kelly Olynyk cut the lead to six at 118-112, LeVert scored five to push the lead out to 10.
Immediately, though, the Pacers gave up a three point play, breathing life back into the Rockets after working the lead back up to double figures. Fortunately, time was on Indiana’s side in this one as Malcolm Brogdon quickly drilled a three off of an offensive rebound and would go 4-4 from the line down the stretch to allow the rocky 132-124 victory.
For the game, the Pacers allowed 74 points in the paint, getting outscored by 10. The speed of John Wall caused problems for the Pacers in the second half, allowing the Rockets to best Indiana at some of their biggest strengths: fast break points and points off turnovers. Houston outscored Indiana 24-15 off of turnovers and ran up 17 fast break points.
While Indiana continue to play at a high level offensively, landing three 20-point scorers on the night, the Rockets bested them with their three best scorers 81-72. Fortunately, one area the Pacers did get solid contributions from was the bench, with Indiana winning the bench battle 48-13.
The trio of Lamb, Brissett, and McConnell shot a staggering 16-20, including a perfect 5-5 night from McConnell. He also led the way with four steals, with Lamb also picking up a pair. Lamb also led the team with three blocks for good measure. Lamb hit four threes as Indiana shot much better tonight from deep, finishing 15-36.
LeVert led the Pacers with 27 points on 10-20 shooting, continuing to showcase his impressive scoring abilities to help open up the Indiana offense. That allowed Brogdon to score 23 (with 14 rebounds and nine assists) and Sabonis to pick up 22 (with 11 rebounds and seven assists).
The Pacers continue to take advantage of their schedule, though perhaps not with the most ideal execution, improving to 5-2 in their last seven, including four straight road wins. That particular streak will be put to the test as Indiana continues their three game road trip, facing the league-best Utah Jazz in a weekday matinee game, tipping at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday.