The slump might be over, and it’s time for the Indiana Pacers to make one final push and seal the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite being down by 25 points against the Detroit Pistons, with other goals in mind, big nights from Paul George and Evan Turner completed the second biggest comeback we’ve seen in the NBA this season.
On December 3 the Golden State Warriors came back from 27 points down against the Toronto Raptors, and the Pacers came very close to that, coming back from 25 points behind as the Pistons enjoyed a great start, getting Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to look good early on before fizzing away to their usual percentages at the end of the game. Josh Smith hitting a shot in the final seconds of regulation did send the game into overtime, but it was all Pacers in the final five minutes, winning 112-104.
Their defense is still in troulbe, allowing Jennings too many times to move freely in the paint and set others up for easy baskets. The Pacers offense once again was borderline painful, especially in the first half, shooting 39.4% from the field. George Hill was terrible with 1-of-7 from the field, Luis Scola did pretty bad himself but the worst was Andrew Bynum, feeling maybe a bit too confident with the ball, and shooting 18(!!!) times in 20 minutes. He did score 15 points as the Pacers kept pushing the ball to him in the paint. Andre Drummond was out after only 5 minutes with a neck injury, but it didn’t make it any easier for Bynum to score, as the Pistons had most of their good minutes with him on the floor.
So while the Pacers are trying to find out how to integratge Bynum and Turner into their defensive system, it’s good to see Paul George playing like the semi-MVP he was earlier in the season. He finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. It was great to see him make good decisions with the ball, although often it was simply him pulling up for a contested jumper, this time making those shots at reasonable accuracy.
Turner continues to swing from bad to good in his performances off the bench, scoring 20 points on 8-of-15 from the field. David West added 15 points; Roy Hibbert was very dominant in his 33 minutes with 12 points and Lance Stephenson had another very productive all around game, finishing with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, but not every team will allow the Pacers so much leeway despite shooting so badly all game long.
The Pistons might still make the playoffs, but it won’t be with Brandon Jenning shooting 3-of-13 from the field, or Josh Smith still playing like he’s one of the greatest scorers in the game, taking 23 field goal attempts to score 23 points. Greg Monroe doesn’t touch the ball often enough and the Pistons don’t have an outside shooting game after almost an entire season. They might still make the playoffs, but it’s quite likely this season will be another massive disappointment, this time with a lot of money invested and getting blown away.
The Pacers are still in some sort of funk. Ther offense has always been the bonus, but the defense needs to be figured out in order to make the playoffs less complicated than they should be, at least until the conference finals. Getting Paul George and Evan Turner to score regularly is great, but it’s what happens on the other end that will determine just how far they go this time in the postseason.